If you have tried stretching, mobilising, foam rolling, lacrosse ball, self torture devices, body work, manipulation, contortion, voodoo, and are not getting the results you desire, perhaps its time to try something else?
Not all limited range of motion, pain, or musculoskeletal tension means a structure needs to be manually released or stretched.
Sometimes it means the structure needs to be given some stability back, so that it can have permission to relax and gain mobility.
Take the Psoas muscle for example. The Psoas attaches from the body and transverse processes of T12 – L5 vertebrae to the lesser trochanter of the femur. It contributes to flexion and external rotation of the hip, as well as stability of the lumbar spine, flexion of the trunk towards the thigh, and can laterally flex the lumbar spine. It crosses many joints and capable of lots of jobs.
The Thomas Test can be used to reveal tension in the Psoas (but what does that say about it’s function?). It is common that people with low back pain, lumbar lordosis, anterior pelvic tilt, tight hip flexors, ‘clicking’ or ‘snapping’ at the hip, leg length issues or limited hip extension stretch the crap out of the Psoas muscle. Yes in some cases this muscle needs stretching (given that it is functional first), but you would be quite surprised that if you test this muscles functional capacity, communication from the brain to the muscle might not be there, or be very limited. When a muscle crosses many joints, has many jobs to do, and isn’t capable of communicating with the brain to do those jobs effectively, it might just stiffen up as a strategy for stability.
If you are hanging from a tree branch and don’t want to fall to the ground, but feel vulnerable like your about to slip, what do you do? You would likely do your best to grip tighter and hold on for dear life.
If your brain can’t communicate with your Psoas, and its doing its best job to stabilise your spine, its trying to hold on yet it feels vulnerable, and you stretch it even more, what do you think it might do? Hold on tighter?
In this case you could stretch the muscle till the cows come home. You can dig in deep and massage that Psoas all you like. You might get some short relief but the tension keeps coming back. If the poor lil’ muscle is hanging on for dear life, and here you are tickling it under the arm pit, prodding, poking, and stretching it, of course it is going to be pissed off.
Anyway, so what you could do is, test the muscles functional capacity first. If it is not too happy and the Psoas muscle can’t be engaged, find out what is compensating for it using the principles of Neurokinetic Therapy. It is possible that global compensations can occur and can include synergists (along the kinetic chain), functional opposites (kinetic chain), joints, ligaments, breath holding, pelvic floor bracing, jaw clenching, scar tissue, tattoos, it’s all possible. Find out what is limiting the functional capacity of the Psoas, and use the Neurokinetic Therapy protocol to give function back to the Psoas. Give it permission to engage. Give it permission to relax. Give it permission to not have to hang on for dear life. Spend some time earning functionality of the Psoas, and mobility will improve.
This same principle can be applied to a joint. If the brain perceives that stability surrounding the joint is insufficient, excess joint compression may come into play, thereby decreasing mobility as a strategy to gain more stability. You can mobilise the joint over and over, but what initiated lack of mobility at the joint in the first place?
If you keep running into mobility issues, and stretching isn’t working, work with someone who can properly assess the situation. You may have a stability issue, and not a mobility issue.