The Psoas muscle is one of the most important muscles in our body, as far as I am concerned. Once again, the "P" is silent, so that is pretty cool too. This deep hip flexor muscle is often blamed for lower back pain when it is tight or chronically contracted. Most health care practitioners and fitness professionals are focused on stretching or releasing tight Psoas muscles. The Psoas is responsible for many bodily movements, so it is much more important to be sure that the Psoas muscles are active and functioning properly on both sides of the body. We'll discuss this in more detail and how you can be sure your Psoas muscles are working their best for your body.
Where is the Psoas muscle located?
The Psoas muscle has a deep portion, which attaches on the transverse process of the lumbar vertebrae (L1-5). The superficial portion spans from the side of the body of the lowest thoracic vertebra (T12), the top 4 lumbar vertebrae (L1-4), and some of the intervertebral discs. The Psoas muscle runs down through the pelvis and inserts onto the lesser trochanter of the femur, located on the inside, or medial aspect, of the the upper part of the thigh bone. The Psoas shares this part of its attachment with the Iliacus muscle, which covers the front of the iliac bone of the pelvis. Together, they are referred to as the "Iliopsoas." A large group of nerves, known as the lumbar plexus, travels near the Psoas. This area of the body is also known as the "Solar Plexus" and is an energy center of the body.
What functions do the Psoas muscles provide?
The main function of the Psoas muscle is hip flexion, which refers to bringing the femur bone toward the front side of the trunk of the body. This motion occurs each time we lift our leg and swing it forward when we walk. The Psoas muscles can work together as trunk flexors, bringing our trunk forward toward our thighs, like when doing a sit-up exercise. The right Psoas is involved in bending the lower spine to the right, and the left side bends the spine to the left. The Psoas is also involved in rotating the trunk to the same side and to the opposite side. There is activity in the Psoas muscles during hip External or Lateral Rotation, and some would argue that there is muscle activity also during hip Internal or Medial Rotation.
How can I feel my Psoas muscles working properly?
One way to feel your Psoas is to lie on your back with your legs straight out. Slide your right leg out to the side about a foot and a half. Keeping your knee straight, turn your leg out from your hip joint, then lift your leg up to a 45 degree angle with the floor. Feel the Psoas muscle deep inside the abdomen and at the inside of the upper part of the thigh contracting. Hold that position for a few seconds, then bring your leg back down to the ground. Did you feel it? Try it on the other side and see if you notice any differences between your 2 sides. Is one side easier to lift, or does one side feel heavier? Do you notice any pain in your groin, thigh, or lower back?
What symptoms may I feel if my Psoas is not functioning properly?
If you have weakness with the above exercise or you feel pain in the front of the hip or in the lower back, your Psoas may not be working properly. When you are in a seated position for a long period of time and you stand up, you may feel some Psoas tightness in the front of the pelvis and it may be difficult to fully extend your spine to stand up straight for a minute. Another common symptom of Psoas dysfunction is groin pain. You may also notice a sideways curve in your spine or a sideways lean if the Psoas is weak on one side and tight on the other. If you have any difficulty with these activities or are curious about any asymmetries you may notice, be sure to contact your Muscle Activation Techniques Certified Specialist to assist you in achieving your goals.
What are some common exercises that can be done to target and strengthen the Psoas muscle?
Once you are certain that your Psoas muscles are active and ready for exercises, you can perform some of the following activities: Walking, Biking, Elliptical trainer, Rowing machine, Knee to Chest Marches while lying on your back, Hip Flexion/Marches (knee toward chest) while standing, or lying down with legs propped up on Exercise Ball, Abdominal Crunches, Planks, Mountain Climbers, Downward Facing Dog, Forward Fold, just to name a few.
Here's to your happy, healthy Psoas muscles!!