Eliminate Psoas & Back Pain - How to stretch and strengthen the psoas!
5 effective stretches and strength exercises to eliminate that psoas pain!
The psoas (pronounced - so-as) is very important and integral muscles that most people don’t understand or pay enough attention to for their physical and emotional well-being!
If you have experienced hip pain, low back pain, or other tightness and stress in the body, a tight or weakened psoas could be the cause. Learning how to stretch and strengthen your psoas can quickly heal and fix issues you may be experiencing.
In order to better understand the stretches and strength exercises we first must understand the psoas a bit more!
What is the psoas?
First the psoas is part of the group of muscles responsible for the flexion of the hip (a.k.a - hip flexors). The Psoas group is made up of 3 muscles, Psoas minor, Psoas major and Illiacus, collectively known as the Illiopsoas. The Psoas major (the one we will focus on most) connects from your lumbar spine to the head of your femur. Fun Fact - It is the only muscle that attaches the spine to the leg, and you have one for each leg.
It also runs from the back of your body to the front of your body. This has been a really key point in my own psoas stretch and strengthening journey since 2018.
This collection of muscles are also located in the Deep Front Net and is in relationship to our gut, core, and nervous system - which also ties it to our emotional well-being, which I’ll touch on later.
What does the Psoas do?
The hip flexors are responsible for bringing your leg and torso towards each other. The iliopsoas’s main role is moving the leg past 90𝆩 in hip flexion.
It also plays a major and vital role in the following movements:
Hip joint flexion
Trunk lateral Flexion
External Rotation of the hip joint
Adduction once the leg has been abducted
Core strength and stability
Quality of movement as it connects both torso and legs
Movements such as biking, running, getting out of bed, picking up groceries, kicking your legs, doing any sort of ballet styled leg actions, or a bunch of sit ups, involves the psoas.
Don’t get scared if you’re like “oh my gosh, I’m screwed, what do I do?” It’s actually not that difficult to get the psoas back in balance and significantly enhance your well-being!
A tight or weak Psoas can contribute to:
Since the psoas is located in the Deep Front Fascial Net and bridges the upper and lower body together the effects of a tight or weak psoas can affect the entire body.
Hip joint pain
Low back pain
How do I know if it’s tight or weak?
It’s quite simple to test if you have a tight or weak psoas.
Test for weakness:
Step 1: Stand upright, and bring one leg up as high as you can.
Step 2: Keeping your pelvis neutral and your torso as tall, let go of the leg and try to hold it up for 15-30 seconds.
Step 3: Notice what your body is telling you. If you struggle to maintain pelvic alignment, core and spine stability, you have a weak psoas.
Test for tightness:
Step 1: Lie on something elevated like a bench, box, or table. Sit back so that ½ your legs are on the surface.
Step 2: Bring both knees into your chest.
Step 3: Keeping your lower back connected to the surface you are on and the pelvis neutral, let one leg go down towards the floor.
If your hamstrings are unable to be in contact with the surface you are on, without arching your low back you have a tight or shortened psoas.
Remember to test both sides. One side may be tight and the other weak.
Having different results on each side gives us information and a direction to go towards, but we will still want to do both for each side, you’ll simply adjust as needed so that you can achieve both sides becoming strong and flexible!
What causes tight or weak psoas muscles?
Since our psoas is located on our spine, lines the interior aspect of our pelvic halves, and attached at the anterior (front) femoral head there are a lot of aspects that can affect the psoas and vice versa.
I mentioned above the connection to the nervous system and our emotions. When we feel nervous or afraid, anxious or stressed we tend to contract forward and our breathing may change. The constant contraction of the body puts stress on the psoas and causes it to shorten and get aggravated.
If we are stressed our ability to breathe deeply and fully is affected because the psoas is connected to the diaphragm, organs, and hips through fascia. If one area is under stress and activating/contracting out of sync our psoas will be affected in its way ability to release and contract properly.
Excess sitting, over use of the muscle, and improper connection and ability to support the psoas from the back will also create excess tension and aggravation.
In a somatic practice tuning into the psoas through breath and gentle movement is key in order to allow the body to move with ease. Allowing the nervous system to regulate back down to a calming, yet ready to go state! For more on this check out article that discuss the emotional link of the psoas and the somatic practice of Pandiculation.
Pro Tip: I have found it highly effective that during any stretches or strength exercise imaging the psoas in my body and releasing unnecessary tension increases the effectiveness of whatever I am doing!
Strengthen Your Psoas
There are various exercises that focus on strengthening the hip flexors and iliopsoas.
These are my favourite that anyone can do no matter what your level of fitness or flexibility is. Plus, the only equipment recommended is a small resistance band
For more advanced psoas strength exercises stay tuned for my advanced hip flexor workshop.
Stretch Your Psoas
Stretching your psoas is important due to the fact that we spend much of our day in hip flexion.
Here are some simple stretches that focus on releasing the psoas without adding excess stress or strain on your body.
Since the psoas is connected to our nervous system we want to calm the psoas down and allow the fascia and fibers to stretch in a comfortable and safe feeling way!
Medium or large ball and large resistance band
Using Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) to help:
During a session with Akeisha, owner of Stretch by Akeisha, we’ll approach stretching the psoas with gentle care and movement! Focusing on calming the nervous system and flight or fight response of the psoas and gently move the body in ways that allows the psoas to release and experience movement. Typically when clients experience a sore and aggravated psoas their body gets scared of certain movements, with FST we can reduce or eliminate those emotions/reactions and gain a positive more enjoyable experience of movement!
Looking for more stretch and strength guidance?
Check out my website to see what offers, workshops, and events I have going on online and in person.
Also check out my YouTube channel for more videos like the ones here.
Looking to bring Akeisha into your community to share this knowledge and approach to strength and stretching? Email your inquiry to email@example.com to find out more and start the conversation.
Akeisha’s passion is to help others find more ease, flow, and potential in their movement from beginners to advanced movers!