Muscle of the Monday: Transversus Abdominis (the deepest of abdominals)

The transverse abdominal muscle wraps around the torso from front to back and from the ribs to the pelvis. The muscle fibers of the transversus abdominis run horizontally, similar to a corset or a weight belt.

Primary Actions:  This muscle doesn’t help move the spine or the pelvis, but it does help with respiration and breathing. This muscle helps facilitate forceful expiration of air from the lungs, stabilizes the spine and helps protect the internal organs.

Functional Connections: A strong core is built from the inside out so the first muscle to build upon is this one.  Because of its functional connection with the diaphragm and breathing, a great exercise is to practice deep breathing control and ‘belly breathing’.

**Begin your inhalation with belly expansion and build it into the ribcage.  Expand everything as much as possible.  Then, don’t just let it all go at once; control the exhalation to match the time it took to take the maximum inhalation.**

Chronic Pain Connections:  By working to control deep inhalation and exhalation you will gain both flexibility and strength deep in your core.  This may aid in digestion, balance and even relaxation.

Latissimus Dorsi – Muscle of the Monday

Muscle of the Monday: LATISSIMUS DORSI or “Lats”

Chronic Pain Connections: Weak Latissimus Dorsi, or Lats with tissue adhesions, most often play a role in chronic Shoulder pain but it may also contribute to Elbow, Wrist, and/or Hip pain.

Primary Actions: Extension, adduction, transverse extension also known as horizontal abduction, flexion from an extended position, and (medial) internal rotation of the shoulder joint. It also has a synergistic role in extension and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine.

Favorite Exercises: For Strength – Chin-ups and Pull-ups. For Stability – Plank Hold, Side Plank, Reverse Table Top.

Iliotibial Band or IT Band



MUSCLE OF THE MONDAY: Iliotibial Band or IT Band*

*Yes, I realize the IT Band is NOT a muscle. It does not contract like a muscle, it is made up of a connective tissue called fascia. But it is a booger of a problem child (very technical term) with it’s surrounding muscles.

PRIMARY ACTIONS: There are not any actions per se since the ITB is not a muscle however it is good to know the surrounding muscles to assess which one might be creating the pain. The lateral quadriceps, lateral hamstrings, the gluteus maximus, and the tensor fascia lata (TFL) all have a facial connection to the IT Band.

CHRONIC PAIN CONNECTIONS: Unfortunately there are many. Outer knee pain is the primary complaint but hip pain is also a symptom of adhesion problems with the IT Band. By “adhesion problems” I mean that this band of fascia acts like FLY PAPER adhering to the muscles alongside it when there are strength imbalances or flexibility problems with said muscles. These adhesions affect the muscle function.
Majority opinion states that this causes tightening of the IT Band which creates friction at the lateral femoral epicondyle (outer boney part of the thigh bone) however it is now debated if that is the SOURCE of the problem.

PAIN RELIEF: While the current popular philosophy involves “steamrolling” the ITB with a foam roller, in my opinion, pain relief may be more quickly found in creating more separation between the ITB and surrounding muscles as well as increasing the strength and stability of the hip and/or lower leg muscles.

Because there are so many possibilities of where the SOURCE of the pain might be, it is important to get an educated physical assessment to ensure you don’t waste your time and money continuing to re-treat a SYMPTOM.

To book an appointment with me in the Denver area please visit www.thebalanceguru.com and click on Contact for my phone number.

The Proper Care and Feeding of your Psoas Muscle

Low back pain is one of the main body complaints from people of all ages, occupations, and sport disciplines. An unfamiliar muscle called the Psoas (pronounced soh-as) often contributes to back pain when it is tight, shortened, or unbalanced.

     There is good news! You can avoid it… you can even fix it.

Where, and What is My Psoas?

The Psoas is one of the largest and thickest muscles in the body. It attaches to the vertebrae of your lower back, and the head of your femur (thigh bone). There is a Psoas Major and Psoas Minor that blend into the Iliacus muscle, all of which are generally referred to as the Psoas.

The Psoas is primarily responsible for hip and thigh flexion and has a lot of influence over your lumbar posture and the way your pelvis is positioned.

Psoas

The Psoas is shortened when you are seated and will become tight & contracted when seated for a prolonged period of time. For those of you who have desk jobs or are students, your day consists mainly of sitting. Eventually, the Psoas will start to think this is its normal position and length.

Incorrect posture during sitting, standing, and walking will cause the Psoas to develop an imbalance that will leave it tighter and harder to release and/or lengthen.

Why Does It Cause Back Pain?
A tight Psoas is a killer for your back for various reasons.

• If it is tight and in a contracted state, your Psoas will want to bring your lower back forward, moving you into an anterior tilt or lordotic posture.

• The tension exerted by the Psoas when in a contracted state may compress the joints and discs of the lumbar vertebrae. This pressure may cause degeneration and increase susceptibility to injury.

• An imbalanced Psoas, where it is shortened on one side, will pull the spine and/or pelvis out of alignment, leading to many painful problems, including scoliosis.

• A tight Psoas may inhibit your Gluteal muscles from firing and activating normally due to Reciprocal Inhibition as the Psoas and portions of the Gluteal muscles function as opposing muscles.

• Imbalances often lead to overcompensation of other muscles of the body, leaving them tight and overworked.

Proper Care of your Psoas.

There are several ways to stop your Psoas from thinking that shorter is natural. These are easy to implement, especially if you don’t suffer from back pain yet.

Postural Corrections. If we stay in a certain position all day, our tissues will want to move into that resting position, in this case, your Psoas. Surf the web in a standing position, or read a book laying on your stomach.

Stand up when exercising. When seated all day at work your Psoas is shortened. Make an effort to do the opposite in the gym. Instead of the bike, get on the treadmill. Instead of the rowing machine, get on the step mill.

Vary your sleeping habits. When you are on your stomach, your back goes into lordosis. If you always sleep on one side, it creates an imbalance. Change it up when you can.

Move More. Not staying in a seated position all day will go a long way to stopping you from developing a shortened & tight Psoas. Get up more frequently, stretch more often, change positions… just keep moving!

Stretch!
Begin with a gentle activation of
the Psoas with Triangle Pose
Warrior 1 is an active stretch for the Psoas and
opposing muscles strengthen to stabalize the pelvis
Kneeling Quadriceps Stretch is an intense
stretch and should NOT be forced.  Ease into it!
Release!

The safest and most effective way to release and lengthen your Psoas is through a qualified massage therapist (hmmm, I wonder where to find one…*wink*).

Once you experience bodywork and release of your psoas muscle it’s possible to self palpate it.  Ask your therapist to guide you through it while they supervise.  This is a great defense against all the hours of sitting because not many people can afford to see their massage therapist on a daily basis.

Strengthen!

Activating your gluteals and abdominals will help inhibit and relax your Psoas. Here is a video that shows a few exercises to begin with:

Living pain-free helps to encourage a more active lifestyle.  Take care of your body and keep it running smooth.