Massage & Bodywork

JULY | AUGUST 2015

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The psoas is a true celebrity. In terms of the attention it gets, the psoas has superstar status in fields as diverse as yoga, massage, physical therapy, Pilates, chiropractic, strengthening and conditioning, martial arts, structural integration, and Rolfing. Like other famous stars, the life story of the psoas is probably a mixture of fact and fiction, where mystery, hyperbole, and controversy blend with the psoas' truly special qualities, eccentricities, and abilities. 106 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k j u l y / a u g u s t 2 0 1 5 technique MYOFASCIAL TECHNIQUES Working with the Psoas By Til Luchau Hidden away deep in the abdomen where its workings are less observable than other more superficial muscles, the psoas is the subject of numerous (and often contradictory) theories and assertions. Right or wrong, some of the many claims about the psoas include: • Along with the tongue, it is the most sensitive muscle in the body. 1 • It is the strongest hip flexor, or not a hip flexor at all. 2 • It is a lateral rotator of the hip, a medial rotator of the hip, or not a rotator of the hip. 3 • It is able to deepen the lumbar curve by contracting, able to flatten the lumbar curve by contracting, or it is not related to lumbar curve. 4 • It is involved in most back pain, or it is not particularly relevant to back pain. 5 The psoas major muscles (green), from above. The surrounding iliac fascia is visible on the left; the transparency of the right psoas muscle reveals the lumbar plexus' nerves within the belly of the psoas major, which contribute to the psoas' extreme sensitivity. Image courtesy Primal Pictures, used by permission. 1 • It is "just another spinal muscle," or it is the "muscle of the soul." 6 • It is important to work directly, should never be worked directly, or is physically impossible to work directly. 7 CONTROVERSY From this list, we can see there is quite a bit of debate about the psoas' biomechanical function. But another thing is also clear: direct myofascial work with the psoas is itself controversial. It is easy to find heated online and social media debates about the effectiveness, methods, or advisability of psoas work; some of these exchanges have even spurred threats of legal action. 8 Rather than trying to argue which parts of the psoas' divisive, larger- than-life reputation might be either

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