Stretching by reversing the Actions of a Muscle

You can look up how to stretch a particular muscle or muscle group, but can you do it smarter? Look up the action of a muscle; take for example the Psoas, there’s a muscle that often needs stretching in our sit down lifestyle. I’m simplifying here, as each piece of the Psoas has a slightly different affect, as it links L2 to L3 to L4 to L5 to the Femur, each section can have different impact depending on where the pressure point or fulcrum occurs, but as a whole the actions are:

Flexion of the Thigh

Lateral Rotation of the Thigh

Flexion of the Trunk

Lateral Flexion of the Trunk

Anterior Tilt of the Pelvis, and to a lesser extent

Contralateral Rotation of the Trunk

Contralateral Rotation of the Pelvis 

When the Psoas contracts all these effects occur (unless prevented by the action of other muscles or external pressure). Contraction. So to stretch the Psoas, the REVERSE of all these Actions needs to occur! Reverse the Actions to stretch any muscle.

To stretch:

Extension of the Thigh

Medial Rotation of the Thigh

Extension of the Trunk

Medial Flexion of the Trunk

Posterior Tilt of the Pelvis, and

Ipsilateral Rotation of the Trunk

Ipsilateral Rotation of the Pelvis.

Taking this one step at a time, when on the massage table, move to the edge and

Hang your leg off the side,

Move the client’s foot outward

But before starting, put a pillow under your butt

Move your torso further towards the center of the table

That pillow has to be lower on your butt so that it tilts the Pelvis posteriorly

Turn your torso to face the leg that’s hanging off the side

That last one ipsilateral rotation of the Pelvis can be done by building up the pillow on the opposite side to the leg hanging off the table. Do all this for the best stretch possible of the Psoas.

But wait, there’s more! There is a Psoas Minor, but the attachment point is the Pubis, so that’s not involved here. It’s the Iliacus. It merges with the distal attachment of the Psoas, so it too may need to be stretched. It has the following Actions:

Flexion of the Thigh

Lateral Rotation of the Thigh

Anterior Tilt of the Pelvis, and to a lesser extent

Contralateral Rotation of the Pelvis

Note that these four Actions are included in the Psoas. So it gets stretched when you stretch the Psoas. What if the Iliacus is having a problem and the focus needs to be on just that, not the Psoas as well? To preferentially stretch the Iliacus do the opposing stretches:

Extension of the Thigh

Medial Rotation of the Thigh

Posterior Tilt of the Pelvis, and

Ipsilateral Rotation of the Pelvis, but contract the Psoas with the remaining Actions:

Flexion of the Trunk

Lateral Flexion of the Trunk, and

Contralateral Rotation of the Trunk.

In American this looks like hanging your leg off the side of the table, bringing the foot out away from the table, starting with a pillow under the lower butt with more pillow under the opposite side of the butt from the leg hanging, then bring the torso forward – more pillows?, bending the torso over to the same side as the leg – could be a problem – don’t fall off the table, and turn the torso away from the leg. By doing this, the Psoas will only be partially stretched; the full effect will be on the Iliacus.

Pick any muscle and try this, find the Actions and reverse them to stretch the muscle. If other muscles attach to the same point distally, find actions that contract the neighboring muscle so that your effort is focused on the one troubling muscle.

Don’t worry if you’re not perfectly in-line with the directions, muscles are wide and have edges, sometimes there’s tightness off the midline, just notice what feels right and if you get the urge, twist a little and get those edges.

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