Medically reviewed by Amy Kwan, PT, DPT
The psoas muscle is deep within the body, near the pelvis and spine. It is a type of muscle known as a fusiform muscle, which describes muscle narrow toward the ends and wider in the middle. Some people may experience pain in the psoas muscle for a variety of reasons, including:
Various forms of arthritis
Overuse of the muscle
When experiencing pain in the psoas muscle, there are various ways to cope, such as stretching. The stretches listed ahead can help reduce psoas muscle pain.
This article describes the symptoms, triggers, and associated conditions that could develop into pain in the psoas muscle.
Anatomy: Where Is My Psoas Muscle?
The psoas muscle is a significant muscle in the body. It is located deep within the abdominal cavity and extends from the mid-spine area to the bottom of the pelvis.
The muscle originates on both sides of the five lumbar vertebrae. It moves down toward the pelvis, combining itself with the iliacus muscle, the triangle-shaped muscle located in the pelvic bone.
What Function Does the Psoas Muscle Perform?
There are many major functions performed by the psoas muscle, including:
Connecting the upper and lower body
Keeping the hip joint mobile
Stabilizing the lumbar spine when in a seated position
Stabilizing the femur head, which is the area where the femur bone meets the hip joint
Helping with overall mobility when moving from lying to upright positions
Acting as a core muscle to help with the stabilization of the body
Symptoms of Psoas Muscle Pain
When a person experiences pain in the psoas muscle, it is often due to tightness or spasms in the muscle. This is referred to as psoas syndrome. There are several symptoms experienced due to Psoas syndrome, including:
Pain in the lower back
Pain in the area when sitting down
Pain when getting up from a sitting position or standing upright
Pain that radiates into the groin, pelvis, legs, or buttocks
Mobility issues, such as limping or shuffling when walking
Because of how generalized the symptoms are, diagnosing Psoas syndrome is often complicated, and it usually ends up misdiagnosed.
Psoas Pain or Something Else
Other conditions, such as arthritis or disc herniation, can present with similar pain as psoas syndrome. Because of that, seeing a healthcare provider is essential if you experience persistent pain in the lower back and pelvic area. They will be able to determine what’s causing the pain and what you can do to relieve it.
Exercises to Release Tight Psoas
Stretching to help with psoas muscle pain can be effective, especially if the muscle is tight. The following yoga and Pilates stretches can alleviate pain by reducing tightness:
Psoas Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Bring one knee into your chest while extending the other leg straight out, keeping your lower back flat on the ground.
Modified Gate Pose: Starting on your hands and knees, with your hips stacked over your knees and your shoulders over your hands, extend your right leg out to the side, turning your toes in slightly. Extend and flex your spine. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Lunge Stretches: Get into a lunge position and allow your back knee to rest on the ground. With your spine upright, push your body slightly forward until you feel a mild stretch.
Table Stretch: Laying on a flat and sturdy surface, hang one leg off the table's edge and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Tree Pose: In a standing position, slide one foot up the calf of the opposite leg until it reaches the thigh. Balance by engaging your core and keep your hands on your hips. When in position, slightly edge your thigh outwards.
Resting Stretches: In a laying position with your feet on the floor and resting your arms comfortably overhead or out to the side. This stretch allows the release of the psoas for pain relief.
Does Stretching Really Work?
According to research, stretching can help with the psoas muscle tightness. That said, it does have to be done consistently.
Related: Hip Stretches for Seniors
Stretches to Strengthen Weak Psoas
Having a weak psoas muscle can affect mobility and back health. That is why it’s essential to keep it strong. If you want to strengthen your psoas muscle, you can perform several exercises, including:
Lying Leg Raises: While on your back, lift one leg at a time, bringing it toward you, keeping it straight.
Psoas Crunches: Starting on your hands and knees, take your left knee and your right elbow and move them toward each other to touch. Repeat on the opposite side.
Standing Hip Flexion: Standing straight with a neutral spine, lifting one knee to 90 degrees and holding for five seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Exercise and Psoas Muscle Pain
Muscle overuse can sometimes cause the psoas muscle to become weak or tight. This is what leads to pain. That said, specific exercises and stretches can help reduce pain overall. While the stretches and activities mentioned above can help, the list is incomplete. Based on your case, you will likely receive other stretches and exercises from a healthcare provider.
Learn More: Yoga Spinal Twist for Back Pain
What Triggers Psoas Muscle Pain?
Many things can trigger psoas muscle pain, including:
Overuse: Athletes and those with athletic lifestyles are likelier to experience psoas muscle pain from overuse. It is especially high for dancers and runners.
Sedentary lifestyle: On the opposite end, people who do not get enough movement can also develop psoas muscle pain and tightness.
Weak core muscles: When the core is weak, the psoas muscle cannot perform its job as well, leading to an increased likelihood of developing psoas muscle pain.
Conditions that affect the health of the hip, the muscles, and joints surrounding it can lead to psoas muscle pain. Some possible associated conditions include:
Rheumatoid arthritis of the hip
Can Psoas Muscle Tightness Cause Health Issues?
While a tight psoas muscle can lead to symptoms and pain, it is not a driver of arthritis or other disorders. That said, conditions that affect the hip can lead to the development of psoas syndrome.
Working With a Physical Therapist
If you experience psoas muscle pain or psoas syndrome, working with a physical therapist can help reduce pain, tightness and spasms that lead to psoas syndrome and its accompanying symptoms.
Physical therapists will assess your pain level and mobility and develop an action plan that could include exercises and stretches for you to do at home consistently.
Physical therapists will focus on stretching and strengthening the:
By working with a physical therapist, you can reduce or eliminate pain in the psoas muscle and the issues that go along with having it.
Learn More: An Overview of Physical Therapy
The psoas muscle is an important muscle that helps with mobility and back and hip health. When someone develops muscle or psoas syndrome pain, they experience different pain levels that could occur when sitting, standing, or lying down.
While psoas syndrome is rare, it is more likely to occur in people who have athletic backgrounds, such as runners and dancers. The best way to cope with psoas pain is to see a healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis and then a physical therapist to assist with developing a stretch and strengthening therapy plan to reduce pain and restore movement.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.