WIn case you missed part one, I’ve been talking about the hip flexors and why they are the missing link for so many people with back pain. The part of the hip flexors group I’ve been focusing on is the psoas muscle because it is the key to a healthy back. Today, we’re going to talk about how the psoas muscle affects your nervous system.
The first thing we need to understand is the human body is designed for survival.
We have all of these systems in place designed to make sure we will survive and keep moving forward. In the past, a thousand or so years ago, survival may have meant you had to go out to hunt/gather your meal every day or fight off a wild animal. There might have been a pack of wild wolfs chasing you down and you had to fight for your survival. That’s the way our bodies were designed; with a response system that sensed danger then would alert us and we would take action in a couple of different ways. Today, most of us aren’t being chased by a pack of wild wolves. Most of us don’t have to go out to hunt or gather our food every single day where there’s all kinds of danger in nature or other people trying to hurt us.
Today’s survival often means you’re working a 40-hour workweek while balancing family and life commitments. Survival can mean trying to keep your phone and email inbox from getting out of control. Handling the day to day issues and emergencies that come up in our lives. Both of these situations, whether it’s running from a pack of wolves or figuring out how you’re going to get Johnny to his football practice, creates stress on the body. It’s your nervous systems job to manage this stress.
Part One: The voluntary nervous system.
It’s important to have a good understanding of your nervous system and how it works. Its related to the psoas, which in turn is what is affecting your back pain and overall body. The nervous system is broken down into two parts.
The voluntary nervous system is the part where you think about doing something and the action occurs. If my brain says “I’m going to lift my left arm up,” my left arm goes in the air. It’s the part where you’re consciously aware of what’s going on and then making it happen.
Part Two: The autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system is part of the nervous system. This is the stuff that’s happening in the background; the things you’re not aware of such as breathing. Although you can control your breathing you don’t have to think about it, it happens automatically. Your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, sweating, when your pupils constrict and dilate according to light.
It’s all of those bodily functions that have to occur in order for life to continue. You don’t have to think about those actions. We have been made in such an amazing way that our brain can carry out these functions without you having to expend any thought into what’s going on.
The autonomic nervous system is broken down into two systems. The first one is called the sympathetic nervous system. The second one is the parasympathetic nervous system.
It has two jobs. Balancing the body and the “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system is constantly balancing the body with your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion, you name it.
Your fight or flight response is what happens when you hit that stressful situation and realize, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to work overtime today! Johnny’s got a football game at five o’clock and Susie’s got dance lessons at 5:30PM, but I’ve got to work till six. I don’t know what I’m going to do;” Everything is so stressful. The sympathetic nervous system triggers you to either run away from danger or be ready to fight and face danger head on. This is how we survive. It doesn’t matter what the danger is. It’s the perceived danger by the brain that triggers the sympathetic nervous system response. Anything that could be perceived in a way that’s dangerous to you is going to trigger that response.
Why am I telling you all of this? What does this have to do with the psoas muscle and back pain?
If you push your body too hard when you’re exercising, you may overdo it. Or you’re in a bad posture position which creates stress and then turns on the sympathetic nervous system. When your sympathetic nervous system is activated, due to a perceived danger or stress, the survival response is activated in the psoas muscle. The psoas muscle responds by doing two things that are critical to our survival in the past.
One: It will contract.
We’ve talked about how the psoas runs from the front of the lumbar spine through the stomach, pelvis, and iliacus. Then goes through the groin and attaches to your femur. The first thing the psoas is going to do when it’s activated to assist with our survival, is contract by bringing the ends of the spinal cord together, creating the fetal position. The contraction brings your head and pelvis together. It’s like dropping to the ground and curling up in a ball, the protective posture. It protects all of the vital organs from danger. If those pack of wild wolves come to get you, you drop into a fetal position and curl up to protect those vital areas.
Second: It can create a sudden burst of the psoas muscle in order to make a person be able to run, kick with their legs, jump, or get away really fast.
Earlier we talked about how a person might be attacked by a wild animal. Although there are not wild animals running around attacking us, our body is still programmed to respond in the same way. This is the way we’re built. This is our operating system. We can’t change that.
Your body’s response to a stressful situation, whether it’s school work or life, is all going to be the same. The activation of the psoas muscle is going to occur. I’m not saying most of us are going to curl up into a ball or run away when we’re faced with a stressful situation. But our psoas muscle will still become activated. It’s very important because if it doesn’t, that means it’s not healthy.
If it’s restricted or unavailable to work, our nervous system is not going to be healthy. If our nervous system is not healthy, it’s going to lead to a whole myriad of health problems; back pain being one of those.
“So, how does the psoas get restricted?”
We cause it to become this way. God created us. Created us to function in an amazing way with all of our system working together in harmony. But too often, we throw off this balance and this can happen with many aspects of our day to day life. We’re going to have problems when we allow the psoas to adapt to a new position or activity that causes it to be restricted and not be healthy.
Good news is this can be controlled easily. If you know what to do and you’re aware of the actions contributing to this. One of the most dangerous daily activities is…….
You’re going have to wait until next time. We will talk about one of the most dangerous daily activities to your psoas muscle. I’m not going to give that away to you yet.
If you haven’t gotten a copy of my new eBook, The Five Best Kept Secrets to Fast Back Pain Relief, get yours by emailing me Mike@flex-pt.com or shoot us a Facebook message. We will make sure you get a copy.
As always, I’ll leave you with this thought-provoking quote from George Mueller.
“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. And the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”
Power Your Life and Keep Moving Forward.