Scoliosis and the Psoas: Curvature of the Spine


curvature of the spineScoliosis, the term used to describe an excessive curvature of the spine, may have its genesis in a tight psoas muscle. Everyone is dominant on one side of the body and it is not likely that any body’s spine is completely straight, but the term scoliosis is applied when the curvature of the spine is greater than 10 degrees.

Scoliosis can occur at a number of times during someone’s life. Sometimes the curvature of the spine can be congenital and the condition presents itself at birth. There are certain conditions that are often coupled with scoliosis such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy.

Most often the exact cause is not known and the excessive curvature presents itself anywhere from infancy to adolescence to adulthood. In these cases I have no problem ascribing a neuromuscular issue to the curvature in the spine which is where the psoas comes in.

The psoas muscle connects the legs to the lower spine and the classic indicators of a tight psoas are often similar toCurvature of the spine the way that the curvature of the spine is diagnosed—one shoulder higher or lower than the other; one hip higher or lower than the other; and leg length discrepancy.

A tight psoas can seriously mess with the spine and pelvis. If the portion of the psoas that attaches to the leg is tight is can increase the curve of the lumbar spine. If the upper end of the psoas is tight it can decrease the curve.

The body always compensates in some way for muscular imbalances. If one side of the body is tight and not working all that effectively, the other side with often work harder to make up. This can effectively pull the spine in two directions.

The curvature of the spine can take on many patterns. The tight psoas can pull the lumbar vertebrae forward on one side which can begin the curving process. Anytime the spine is pulled in one direction there will be compensating forces moving in another direction.

Invariable the rib cage with get involved and depending upon the circumstances the entire spine up through the neck can get twisted in the scoliotic journey.

Feeling the Psoas Release Party!
Sunday Morning Music: Tredici Bacci
14 Comments
  1. Psoas Question: For many years (decades!) I have had left-side psoas sensitivity. The psoas constantly got weak on that side, to the point where I could not lift my leg without using my hands for help, pain in the psoas, and other issues. Being a dance teacher, this was very aggravating, to say the least. I went to all sorts of practitioners: chiropractors, massage, acupuncture, body therapies of all sorts, and all said the same thing–your psoas isn’t weak, it’s tired, exhausted, and tight, and it needs releasing and stretching and constructive rest. I did hundreds of hours, all told, of CR (and I studied with Andre Bernard himself back in the day), psoas stretches every day for years, release work of many kinds, but over the years these seemed to have less and less effect, until finally even gentle psoas stretches began to aggravate the situation dramatically. Yes, I’m a bit thick, but finally I said to myself, hmmm, maybe I need to strengthen it…..recently I’ve started doing simple, basic seated leg-lift exercises, really mickey-mouse stuff, but you know what? My psoas is feeling and functioning better and better. I only do a brief psoas stretch a couple times a week now, and do the lifts every other day. Oh, if only someone could have mentioned this 30-40 years ago!!!! (And by the way, I had already changed my standing posture considerably, and while that helped a bit, I think I REALLY needed the strengthening exercises). What do you make of this?

    • Psoas stretches really only work for me if the psoas is happy to begin with. Releasing the psoas and strengthening surrounding muscles — the holy trinity of pelvic floor, inner thighs and abdominals (specifically transverse abdominis) is the best way to bring change and support the psoas. How does that sound?

      • Yes, I agree with you. However, I worked assiduously on all the things you mention (particularly the TA) from a variety of perspectives, and for many years. Undoubtedly they all helped some. However, the missing link for me seems to be strengthening the psoas muscle itself, directly. That is what has proven to be key in my situation.

  2. So if you address the tight psoas, can scoliosis be reversed at all? I recently found out that what was called a “slight scoliosis” when I was 21 is now, 20 years and one disc laminectomy later, a 20-25 degree curvature. I just recently realized that my psoas has a lot to do with my 20 years of lower back, hip and sciatica problems. I started regularly doing CR just a couple of weeks ago and I have already seen noticeable improvement in all of those areas.

  3. I have been a nurse for many years, and now it has caught up with me. I think so many years of lifting and possibly favoring one side now has developed into a mild scoliosis. Not only have I developed that, but also a labral tear in my right hip as well as pre degenerative disc disease. I have spent lots of money over the years for chiropractors, massage, and doctors of all kinds, but there was one guy who h

  4. Sorry my post didn’t finish. Well there was one chiropractor that helped me out a lot, he said I had some really tight muscles in my lumbar and hip, mainly the psoas! He did some myofacial release with me which helped, but I found out later that I had a tear. So recently I had that fixed so now working with PT to get it better. There is not a day that my hip muscles don’t pop, but I wish there was something to loosen these muscles easier. I am now trying thermal patches with warm compression pants which has helped some………so it continues……

  5. Hi there Jonathan,

    I’m on a journey of diagnosis and trying to find treatment and exercise to deal with my symptoms.
    I’m 32, married with 3 kids. I’m 5″6 and 140lbs. I had op for scoliosis 18 years ago. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’m becoming more aware of wanting to look after my body and noticing how long I’ve had some of these aches.

    I have Harrington rods. Since my op, my upper back has been numb. My big toe (left) has felt numb but it wasn’t uncomfortable so I didn’t think much of if until the last few years. It’s now turned to pretty severe pins and needles. The left side of my thigh has also been numb since the op. I also get aches on the left side of my bottom. Lower back ache also.

    Psoas gets quite sore.

    I’m wondering is it the sciatic nerve caught with the rods that has caused this. I’m aware a lot of damage may be done at this stage.

    I would be very grateful if you could give me your thoughts on the above. E.g. Do Yoga, get rods checked out, pilates, also I’ve come across the ‘schroth method’ which is specific to scoliosis. I have been to a physio in the past and I went back to the surgeon. The surgeon told me to walk 5 miles per day but I feel walking with a unbalanced pelvis is not good for me. I do walk but feel I pilates, yoga might be better for me.

    Many thanks for your time.

    Rachel

  6. I am a 61yo adult woman with likelong scoliosis that has become degenerative due to osteo-arthritis of the spine. My biggest issues are being able to walk for long without huge pain and pure exhaustion. Due to lack of resources, I have been reading every book I can find on somatic education, the spine, the psoas, etc. to learn to care for myself. I want to keep walking and perhaps to be able to walk for longer distances. The pain I get is a little above waist line height usually on the “lower side” of my body. In other words, I have a high and low hip. My L4-5 curve is 67 degrees and my T11 is 45 degrees. I have a rotation too. I also have lots of knee and foot pain primarily on that side and my doctor suggests a cane. I would love any resources or suggestions you can give me. Thanks for all you do!

  7. Hi Jonathan, I just want to say THANK YOU! I am taking a 500 hour Pilates Teacher Training and I recently found one of your posts in my newsfeed via a friend’s post. I liked your page and now get your posts everyday and I am learning so much that goes hand in hand with my education. I’m also inspired by your kind responses to people in these comment feeds. Thanks for the way you play in the world!

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