There’s a system in the body that is known as the sympathetic nervous system (SNS for short). This is the epicentre of our survival. The SNS has two primary jobs, one being maintaining homeostasis within the body, or just keeping everything balanced and in check. This isn’t an “as-needed” function of the body, it is constantly at work even without us knowing it and thankfully it acts that way, controlling things like our heart beat, breathing, digestion and blinking. The second function is something called the ‘fight-or flight’ response. The SNS is responsible for stimulating this mechanism in order to achieve homeostasis within the body.
So, what is the relationship between the psoas and the SNS?
When faced with sudden ‘danger’ the survival response is activated, and the mighty psoas muscle responds by bringing together the two ends of the spinal cord; the pelvis and head aka ‘the fetal position’. It is the psoas muscle that rolls the body into a ball, protecting the portals of perception, (located in the face) and vital organs from danger. Bringing the two ends of the spine together forms a durable spine, protecting our body from trauma. Thus, we are able to survive. It is really quiet remarkable that this all happens without any control or thought required.
The psoas and the SNS have a relationship that should never be in jeopardy. Once there is a disconnect between these two, the body’s natural response to survival will become delayed or potentially blocked. If the psoas is unable to function exactly as it was designed to function, we will be put in a situation where the outcome could negatively impact our survival. The psoas just doesn’t become restricted or unavailable all by itself. We cause it to become this way through our day-to-day operations of life, we allow the psoas to adapt to a new ‘natural’ design, which can be controlled easily if we are aware of our actions.
We’ve all experienced it, that pain or achiness after sitting in a fixed position for a good portion of the day. Sitting in a stiff chair, typing up a lengthy business contract, writing an exam paper or a long commute to the office day after day. However, when sitting there is one thing that is certain, there’s a strong chance you are placing your body in an unfavourable position and as a result of this, your body will get stiff.
This tightness is generated from the backward tilt of the hips and when you get up from sitting all day and go to the gym to ‘ease the pressure’, working the core and legs, you only exacerbate the same pattern of sitting with many of the exercises. I am not saying to skip out on the core work, but your standard crunches and sit-ups aren’t going to help your hips. It is important to keep your legs and glutes strong, but too much flexion of the hip when exercising will limit the range of motion in your hips and will cause your lower back and your knees to take all the pressure and force your Psoas to shorten even further.
If you sit in a chair for long periods of time, on a consistent basis, your muscles will shorten in length and you can never really stand up all the way. If you allow tension to accumulate within the hip and spine, your muscles may become too tight even when lying down and you won’t be able to sleep on your stomach. This is a vicious cycle that is becoming a widespread problem in the sitting population
However, you may change your sitting position and incorporate a routine of exercises that can help. Even businesses are becoming more aware of this issue. Standing desks are becoming more popular in the workforce and walking breaks are encouraged. But in reality, just standing all day long won’t fix your problem, the damage has been done over a period of years. Action needs to happen in order to correct the imbalances that have been made
Trauma, injury, stress, our posture all builds up as our “set in our way” pattern of muscular tension and psychological state. Yes, certain events in our lives are unavoidable like a car accident or a birth abnormality but given that we have the control over our physical body is something that should never be neglected, especially if it affects our overall health
If we can just pause for a moment and change the subject to give a little bit of perspective, bare with me for a moment.
Athletes want to perform at their best every single time they take the field, the court or the pitch. In order to do that, they must have healthy, strong and mobile hips: Hips that function without pain, tightness or lack of mobility. Without getting too technical, this means there must be a balance in strength from front to back, side to side and top to bottom. It’s the hip flexors, the iliopsoas group and gluteus group that help keep the body moving and performing at its absolute best.
What is the common thread that ties most athletes together? Some might say speed, genetics, practice, attitude or even strength, but the answer is actually the athletic position or ready position found in most sports. Imagine for a moment the tennis player waiting to receive a serve, they stand ready in a position of strength to return the serve.
None of them would ever stand casually in an upright position seconds before having to perform. Why is that? Because they would not be able to generate any power from that position. An athlete in almost any sport will stand with feet shoulder width (or wider) apart, knees flexed, butt back and torso tilted forward. They are balanced, grounded, strong and ready for anything that comes towards them. From this position, anyone can react quickly, explosively and with tremendous power. If at any time the muscles in the hip area are compromised, athletic performance is undoubtedly affected and not in a good way. Athletes understand better than anyone how crucial this central area of the body is to their performance. Without even realising it, these athletes are helping to not only improve their physical performance but also their mental and emotional function.
Is it any wonder why after doing something physically active, even just a good long walk, you feel emotionally uplifted? The body was designed to move and not be in a seated position all the time. Athletes and others that push their bodies in sports or in the gym simply feel better and more energetic. This is because the centre of the body is not restricted in people like this. The messaging that goes from the lower body to the upper body and back again has less roadblocks, less stress and the signals are stronger
Restoring balance is the key here. Loosening the constantly shortened hip flexors while strengthening the glutes will lead to reduced lower back pain, increased hip mobility and improved performance on the job, on the field and at home.
A chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger. When the body is in danger the SNS activates the body’s natural survival response, which will ultimately exhaust the adrenal glands, depleting the immune system as long as the body is considered in danger. Unfortunately, tight hips will give the brain biofeedback similar to that of danger. When that feedback is given back from the hips to the mind the body will subconsciously stay in that ‘survival’ state. Now, let’s look at how detrimental this is when we are in this survival position. The adrenal glands become overworked and at some point, they will become exhausted. Our adrenal glands govern our stress response, by secreting hormones relative to our stress levels. They actually help control many hormonal cycles and functions in our body. When the adrenal glands are overworked, the body prepares for disaster by storing fat and calories.
In a nutshell, the hip flexors control the connection between our upper body and legs, the levels of pain felt in our back, knees and hips when they are in a tight state, our emotions can be affected by hip tightness, stress and weight gain are all due to the messages sent from our hips to our brain. Get out of your chair, move more.
Are you ready to learn how to stop being in pain, get your weight loss under control and reduce the stress that is slowly taking over your life?
This is the whole purpose of Freedom Therapy – get you back to moving without pain.