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Home > Stretches > Psoas Stretch #1

Psoas Stretch #1

iliopsoas

Directions

  1. Grab a Stretch-Out Strap, a towel, a rope, two belts fastened together—whatever.
  2. Loop one end around one of your feet and hold the other in the same side hand
  3. Lie on the edge of your bed with one leg planted on the ground and the other flat on the bed and parallel to the edge of the bed.  The one on the bed should be the one that the strap is looped around.
  4. Prop your torso up on your elbows.
  5. Scoot the planted foot as far forward (toward your head) as possible.  Doing so, you might feel a hamstring stretch in the planted leg.
  6. Pull on the strap, bringing your foot toward your shoulder blades.  Hold 30 seconds and repeat for each leg as needed.
best psoas stretch

the best psoas stretch one can do

Tips

  1. You should read the Floota.com article on psoas dysfunction to test whether your psoas is too tight or too weak. If your psoas is weak then consider reading the Floota.com article on "desk jockeys."
  2. You will feel the iliopsoas stretch on the front of the hip of the leg that is on the bed (right where you pant pocket would be).
  3. A tight quadratus lumborum is also a common cause of lower back pain. Consider reading the Floota.com article on stretching out your quadratus lumborum.
  4. If, instead, or in addition to this iliopsoas stretch sensation, you feel a psoas stretch on the front of the thigh of the leg that’s on the bed, that’s your quadriceps muscle group being stretched.  This is good and bad.  It’s bad because it means that your quadriceps is tight.  It’s good because you’re stretching it out.  In the event that your quad is tight, you’re not going to get your foot anywhere near your butt (as in the picture below), but don’t worry about it.  You can do quad stretches to supplement your psoas stretch.
  5. Tuck your tailbone under.  This will increase the iliopsoas stretch.  This motion may be more familiar to some than others (har har).
  6. Stay propped up high on your elbows to protect the back from misalignment and increase the iliopsoas stretch.
  7. Don’t forget to move your planted leg forward as far as possible before doing the iliopsoas stretch.  One of the keys to this iliopsoas stretch is the differential between the relative angles of the femurs (i.e. one leg super far back and one super far forward, like a hurdler).

iliopsoas stretch

Background

I had no idea there was a muscle that connected your spine to your femur until a couple months ago when my physical therapist pointed it out to me.  Apparently the psoas is one of the primary culprits for back pain.  The psoas is like a rope connecting your spine to your femur which means that if you have a tight psoas, you’re going to have trouble maintaining proper sitting posture because your tight psoas is pulling your lower back down and forward.  Technically I suppose a tight psoas could also destabilize the vertebra that the tight psoas is attached to, if other forces are present, like a super-tight QL, which happens to attach to the same vertebra as the psoas.  

This psoas stretch is a better stretch than a deep lunge because this psoas stretch is more of a psoas stretch and less of a sartorius/quadriceps stretch, and this psoas stretch doesn’t require a balancing act.  This iliopsoas stretch is also safer and easier to tweak. 

For those of you interested in the psoas, apparently you can massage the psoas yourself, but it’s not easy.  I tried massaging my psoas once.  Massaging your psoas is painful and involves ramming your fingers into your lower abdomen (I can’t find the web page that describes how to do this, but there’s one out there, I’ve seen it). 

Prior to doing this psoas stretch for a few days, my back used to make a "cuh-chung" noise if I pushed my hips forward while leaning back at the shoulders (going up on my toes) and then returned to a neutral standing posture.  As I returned to a normal standing position something in my lower back (a facet joint?) would slip and make a pop.  Felt creepy.  At the direction of my physical therapist, I stretched my psoas using this particular psoas stretch for 2-3 days while strengthening my abdominal muscles with reverse crunches and the popping hasn’t happened since.  Looking back, I think this symptom may have been a result of a tight iliopsoas and anterior pelvic tilt.

The psoas is in a shortened state when you are sitting down.  Because muscles have a tendency to adapt to their environment, most people have tight psoas muscles because they sit down all day long.  A tight psoas is really just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to back pain, however, don’t believe all those weird websites out there that act like psoas health is a panacea for all things that ail you.  Also, if your psoas is tight, you may suffer from excessive lordosis, depending on how your body reacts to sitting down all day.  Additionally, you should note that in addition to being tight, many people have a weak iliopsoas as a result of their seated lifestyle, a condition which can contribute to faulty posture and musculoskeletal dysfunction, as detailed in the Floota.com article on "desk jockeys." It’s probably also a good idea to see what sort of shape your quadratus lumborum muscles are in, as they tend to suffer from prolonged sitting.

Further Reading: Related Floota.com Articles

  1. Psoas Dysfunction Test
  2. Quadratus Lumborum Stretch
  3. Plank Exercise

References

  1. Psoas Major Muscle @ Wikipedia.org
  2. Marc McDougal on the role of the psoas in anterior pelvic tilt @ mindandmuscle.net
  3. Warren Hammer on “Psoas Syndrome”
  4. The Psoas: is It Killing Your Back? @ stronglifts.com

Related Products

  1. Brilliant Yoga
  2. Runner's Yoga

Last Updated: 5/29/2011
Originally Posted: 4/7/2008