The connection between trauma, fight-or-flight mode and our hip flexor (psoas).
There is a connection between trauma and a tense psoas. Due to its function, the psoas plays a very special role in trauma and repressed emotions.
We have a large, very strong muscle group that connects our spine to the pelvis and legs, this is the hip flexor (lat. psoas). It attaches internally to the vertebrae of the lumbar spine and the pelvis and is attached to the upper part of the thigh bone.
This group of muscles has a very special function in our body. When we are in fight-or-flight mode, these muscles, from archaic development, have the task of protecting our sensitive front and centre of the body with the organs and reproductive organs. How do they do this? By contracting and pulling the body together into a foetal curve.
When a person experiences trauma, the psoas muscle group is activated and contracted. This happens automatically, unconsciously. This becomes problematic when we are in fight-or-flight mode for a long period of time, this causes a permanent contraction of the psoas. Because of this, the psoas is often called the soul muscle or fear muscle.
The activation and contraction of the psoas occurs in all traumas, regardless of the cause. Thus also when a child is permanently exposed to a threatening situation of whatever kind, physical or psychological violence, emotional or verbal abuse etc. in everyday life.
The contraction of the psoas may not be as visible because there is no fetal posture, but it still takes place in the form of small, almost imperceptible movements of the psoas.
Due to its special position among the muscles, a chronically tense psoas leads to a permanent activation of the nervous and hormonal system, we remain in fight or flight mode. I.e. the smallest occurrences can trigger the system running at full speed and cause anxiety.
Chronically tense psoas - the effect on our overall well-being
The psoas is connected via fascia to the diaphragm, our main breathing muscle. If the psoas is chronically tense, this affects breathing because of the connection with the diaphragm. Furthermore, the rib cage is pulled forward and the abdominal cavity is constricted. This leads to restrictions in breathing, which in turn affects the overall well-being.
The psoas is centrally located in the abdomen, in close proximity to the kidneys, reproductive organs, abdominal aorta and solar plexus, a plexus of nerves and the intestines, thus affecting these structures. If the psoas is chronically tight, this constricts the abdominal cavity and the organs, nerves and blood supply do not have the space they need, which can limit organ function. The possibly restricted organ function can affect digestion, metabolism and nutrient absorption.
Tension in the diaphragm can cause problems in the area of the lower sphincter of the oesophagus (reflux), as the oesophagus passes through the diaphragm.
Usually the problem is not a psoas that is "too weak", but a psoas that is too tense. The psoas does not need to be stretched or strengthened with strengthening exercises.
The body's stress response must be stopped so that the psoas can rest again.
Trauma release - release of the trauma through tremors
When the body experiences trauma, nature has built in a natural mechanism to use up the energy made available in the body due to the fight-or-flight mode: the muscles start to tremble. This acts like a discharge of the body.
Have you ever started shaking after a very intense experience?
We can observe this in animals that have escaped a life-threatening situation and start shaking uncontrollably all over their body as soon as they are safe again. We humans also have this mechanism, but we override it or stop it, because shaking or showing fear is considered a weakness in our society.
If the energy cannot be dissipated, it is stored in the muscles, which can lead to chronic tension over a longer period of time.
This normal trembling reaction is needed by the body to literally "shake off" the trauma. This is the body's natural way of ending the stress reaction. Through the trembling, the brain receives the message that the danger is over, the release of stress hormones can be stopped.
If the shaking is suppressed, the feedback to the brain that the danger has ended is omitted, the brain continues to release stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. The fight-or-flight mode continues, with all the effects on the nervous and hormonal systems and on the muscles and fascia.
In Emotional Release Therapy, muscle tremors may occur, the body is ready to work through the trauma at the body level.
However, the trembling can also be consciously triggered - with a little practice - to give the body the opportunity to release the trauma sitting in the muscles and thus end the stress reaction.
I use neurogenic tremor as part of my trauma therapy methods in my practice in Frankfurt.