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  • Writer's pictureKrishna Bhatt

WHAT, WHY AND HOW OF THE PSOAS MUSCLES

The psoas muscle is a deep muscle located in the lower back and pelvis that connects the spine to the hip. It is responsible for hip flexion and plays a crucial role in movement, stability, and posture.


The psoas, found deep within the abdominal region connects your leg to spine and creates a curve of lower spine (i.e., Lumbar vertebrae) and triggers to initiate alteration between front and back leg. This alteration facilitates movement of legs forward and backward and therefore plays a major role in walking/running/ other activities.



(Image source- Wikipedia)


The psoas is also referred to as the iliopsoas muscles. The iliopsoas combines the action of psoas major and iliacus muscle to flex the hip joint.


Why Are Psoas Called as Iliopsoas?

The psoas muscle, also known as the iliopsoas muscle, because it consists of two parts and these parts are closely related to function and location:


1. Psoas Major: This larger portion originates from the lumbar vertebrae (T12-L5) and extends down to attach to the femur. It is responsible for flexing the hip joint and plays a crucial role in walking, running, and core stability.


2. Iliacus: The iliacus muscle lies deep within the pelvis, originating from the iliac fossa of the hip bone and merging with the psoas major tendon. It also attaches to the femur. The iliacus assists in flexing the hip joint and works in conjunction with the psoas major.

Because of its position, it is a powerful Hip flexor and strongest in the body in fact! They enable hip movements and provide stability for lower body activities.


However, there are three muscles that connect spine to legs – gluteus maximus, piriformis and psoas. But the Uniqueness of the Iliopsoas Muscles compared to the other two lies in its Anatomical location, structure and function.

The Anatomy, Location, Structure and Connections of Iliopsoas: -


  • ANATOMY: - Anatomically, the psoas major originates from the lumbar vertebrae (T-12 to L-5) and the iliacus muscle arises from iliac fossa of the hip bone. The iliacus with major psoas extends down and attaches to the femur and forms THE PSOAS OR ILIOPSOAS MUSCLES.

  • LOCATION: - The psoas muscle runs vertically alongside the lumbar spine, deep- seated within the abdomen and pelvis. Its proximity to the spine makes it intimately connected to the lumbar vertebrae. It spans from the lower thoracic region (T-12) to the upper thigh (L-5), crossing over the hip joint. Due to its deep location, the psoas muscle is not easily visible.

  • STRUCTURE: - Structurally, the psoas muscle is composed of dense, fibrous tissue and striated muscle fibers. It has a long and slender shape, with a tendon that connects it to the femur. The psoas major is relatively thicker compared to the iliacus muscle. THE ILIOPSOAS (muscle complex) acts as a powerful hip flexor, enabling movements:

  • Lifting the thigh

  • Bending at the waist

  • Walking

  • Running

  • Climbing stairs

  • Kicking, etc.

- Its deep attachment to the lumbar spine also contributes to core stability and posture.


  • CONNECTIONS AND ATTACHMENTS OF ILIOPSOAS: -

1. Deep connection to Lumbar spine: The iliopsoas muscle has deep attachment to the lumbar vertebrae, specifically the transverse processes and sides of the vertebral bodies. This contributes to spinal stability and proper posture by preventing excessive curvature of the lower back.


2. Participation with the iliacus muscle: The two distinct muscles, i.e., iliacus and psoas major form a single functional unit of the iliopsoas complex. The shared tendon and attachment to the femur enable coordinated actions for powerful hip flexion, providing efficiency and strength in movements like walking, running, and kicking.


3. Correlation with the Quadratus Lumborum: The iliopsoas muscle and quadratus lumborum work together to stabilize the lumbar spine and support posture. Their intricate relation often works in synergy, and it is vital for maintaining spinal alignment and preventing lower back problems.


4. Impact on pelvic floor muscles: The iliopsoas muscles connected with deeper pelvic floor muscles, such as the obturator internus and levator ani muscles. This connection impact pelvic stability, lower back health, and urinary continence.

With the intricate network of attachments associated with the psoas muscle, it becomes apparent that these connections bear substantial significance for elucidating its role and functions.


The Role and Function of Iliopsoas Muscles: -


The deep-seated psoas muscle holds remarkable importance due to its multifaceted functions. Moreover, this muscle also affects breathing patterns and emotional well-being.

By understanding the psoas muscle's role, you can enhance your breathing mechanics and promote emotional release and relaxation. The key role and functions of muscles are:


1. Hip Flexion and Lower Body Movement: Iliopsoas serves as a primary hip flexor, enabling essential movements such as walking, running, climbing stairs, and kicking.

The contraction of the psoas muscle lifts the thigh towards the torso, which initiates the lower body movements.


2. Core Stability and Spinal Support: The psoas muscle plays a crucial role in core stability by providing support and stabilization to the spine. Muscle is deeply attached to the lumbar vertebrae, which allows it to contribute to spinal alignment and stability.


It helps in maintaining proper posture by supporting the natural curvature of the spine. It helps prevent excessive strain on the lower back and promotes stability and balance throughout the body.


3. Balance and Coordination: The psoas muscle is vital for balance and coordination. It works in conjunction with the gluteal muscles and inner thigh to promote seamless and efficient movement.

Its coordinated action with these muscle groups plays a crucial role in overall movement coordination, ensuring stability and fluidity.

4. Breathing and Diaphragmatic Function: The body’s breathing pattern is connected to psoas muscles. A relaxed and flexible psoas muscle facilitates diaphragmatic movement, optimizing breathing mechanics and function.


Its proximity to the diaphragm allows it to influence respiratory patterns, promoting healthy breathing habits and overall respiratory well-being.


5. Emotional and Energetic Release: The psoas muscle and emotional tension are interconnected, as stress and emotional trauma can be manifested as physical tension in the psoas.

Releasing and relaxing the psoas through body movement and techniques can benefit emotional well-being, releases tension and promote overall wellness.

The psoas muscle plays a pivotal role in the body's movement, stability, breathing, and even emotional well-being. Understanding its functions and significance allows us to appreciate the intricate interplay between this muscle and various aspects of our overall wellness.


But the improper functioning or dysfunction of the psoas muscle can lead to various symptoms and issues. The very well-known issue or disease of iliopsoas is THE PSOAS SYNDROME. In the following section we are going to learn about this syndrome, its causes, symptoms, etc.


The Psoas Syndrome: Causes & Symptoms: -


Psoas syndrome refers to a condition marked by persistent tightness, discomfort, or pain in the lower back, hip, or groin. It occurs due to dysfunction or imbalance in the psoas muscle, resulting in symptoms that can range from mild discomfort to severe limitations in mobility.

It is a rare injury to the iliopsoas muscle, often seen in athletes such as runners, dancers, and high jumpers. It can result from overuse or trauma, causing groin pain. It is sometimes referred to as "jumpers' hip" or "dancers' hip" and can be challenging to diagnose due to its association with other musculoskeletal conditions.

  • Causes Of the Psoas Syndrome: -

  1. Overuse and Repetitive Movements: Repetitive movements such as running, dancing, or high jumping strain the psoas muscles and can lead to overuse and trigger psoas syndrome.

  2. Muscle Imbalances and Weakness: Imbalances between the psoas muscle and other muscle groups, such as the glutes or core muscles, can cause psoas syndrome. Weakness in these supporting muscles can place excessive stress on the psoas muscle, leading to dysfunction and discomfort.

  3. Trauma or Injury: An injury to the psoas muscle, such as a fall or sudden impact, or trauma can cause strain or sprain, resulting in psoas syndrome.

  4. Postural Issues: Poor posture, such as excessive sitting or slouching, can lead to shortened and tight psoas muscles over time, contributing to the development of psoas syndrome.

  5. Structural Abnormalities: Certain structural abnormalities, such as leg length discrepancies or psoas impingement can create imbalances and increase the risk of psoas syndrome.

However proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is must for identifying the underlying cause and developing an appropriate treatment plan.

  • Symptoms Of Psoas Syndrome: -

  1. Lower back pain

  2. Hip pain or discomfort

  3. Groin pain

  4. Limited range of motion in the hip joint

  5. Muscle tightness or stiffness in the hip and surrounding areas

  6. Postural imbalances, such as anterior pelvic tilt or excessive lordosis

  7. Radiating pain down the front of the thigh

  8. Abdominal pain or discomfort

  9. Difficulty with activities that involve hip flexion, such as walking, running, or climbing stairs.

  10. Increased pain or discomfort with prolonged sitting or certain movements.

Diagnosis Of Psoas Syndrome:

The diagnosis of iliopsoas snapping, also known as psoas syndrome, starts with a detailed history of the patient's symptoms. Commonly, patients experience painful snapping sensations in the hip during sports, climbing stairs or standing up from a sitting position or other recreational activities. The snapping is often accompanied by groin pain that may spread to the thigh or top of the knee.


  1. To diagnose (internal) hip snapping, the medical practitioner evaluates the hip and performs the "active iliopsoas snapping test." The patient moves their hip while the examiner palpates the groin area for snapping, usually when the hip is flexed between 30 and 45 degrees.

  2. During strength assessment of hip flexion with iliopsoas muscle, the healthcare provider applies resistance while the patient lifts their leg in a seated position. Due to this, Groin pain & swelling in the inguinal region (groin or either of lowest lateral regions of abdomen) may occur.

  3. To distinguish between internal and external snapping, a test called the "bicycle test" (here, the patient lies on their side and cycles their affected leg from bending to straightening). If a noticeable snap is felt over the greater trochanter (bony prominence on the side of the hip), it confirms the diagnosis of external snapping caused by the iliotibial band (ITB).

  4. The imaging studies can play a pivotal role in confirmation of the diagnosis and identification of the muscle dysfunctions:

  • X-Ray: Can detect bone problems and psoas impingement.

  • Ultrasound or Sonography: Can visualize the iliopsoas tendon or iliotibial band (ITB) or iliopsoas tendon during specific movements, can also detect soft tissue issues.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): It can diagnose associated chondral and labral abnormalities and determine the underlying cause of snapping.

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: This can provide detailed images to assess hip abnormalities and can assist in the diagnosis of snapping hip syndrome. It’s unique as it can complement other imaging studies like X-rays, ultrasound, and MRI in confirming the diagnosis and identifying the underlying cause of snapping hip syndrome.


The above-mentioned tests and diagnostic procedures for psoas dysfunction make it clear that taking care of and maintaining the psoas muscles is essential for overall well-being. The understanding of importance of maintaining these muscles will empower you to proactively maintain the strength and flexibility of muscle. Also, by incorporating yogic squats and stretches in your daily schedule you can make your muscles flexible, balanced and pain-free.

Importance Of Maintaining Psoas Muscles: -

The psoas are key players in hip flexion and stability. Numerous research and studies have shed light on the importance of maintaining healthy iliopsoas. The studies have highlighted the crucial role these muscles play in promoting overall musculoskeletal function, postural stability, and athletic performance or other activities.


1. The research study on-hockey player gives insights on potential role of the psoas major in hip pain and lumbar spine stability, this study guides clinicians in accurately diagnosing and effectively managing low back pain, particularly when psoas major myofasciopathy (dysfunction) is involved.

Therefore, maintaining psoas muscle is important for:

  • Hip function

  • Lumbar spine stability

  • Prevention of myofascial pain

  • Overall physical functionality

  • Sports performance

2. Another research journal investigated correlation between the morphological characteristics of the psoas major muscle and function and clinical symptoms in patients with symptomatic multilevel lumbar spinal stenosis (SMLSS). The study aimed to provide insights into the role of the psoas major muscle in SMLSS and use of physiotherapy to improve these muscles.

From this study we can conclude the importance of maintaining psoas as:

  • Spinal stability: The psoas major muscle stabilizes the lumbar spine, reducing instability and excessive motion.

  • Functional mobility: A healthy psoas major muscle improves functional mobility for activities like walking, bending, and lifting.

  • Pain management A healthy psoas major muscle may alleviate back pain in individuals with lumbar spinal stenosis.

  • Postural support: The psoas major muscle supports proper posture, promoting spinal health and reducing musculoskeletal imbalances.

3. Research article by HDBMR explored the role of psoas muscle area measured through CT scans by predicting in-hospital mortality for patients with pulmonary embolism in the ICU. It reveals that lower psoas muscle area is associated with higher mortality rates.

The study emphasizes the importance of considering sarcopenia and physical frailty in managing elderly patients with pulmonary embolism. By identifying a potential prognostic indicator, this research provided valuable insights for improving outcomes in ICU patients with pulmonary embolism.


By this study, the importance of maintaining psoas can be listed as:

  • Sarcopenia and Frailty: Preserving psoas muscle mass can help prevent sarcopenia and associated frailty, leading to well-being.

  • Functional Capacity: Maintaining a psoas muscle strength improves functional capacity and mobility, enhancing overall physical performance.

  • Respiratory Function: Optimal psoas muscle function improves respiratory mechanics and pulmonary health, benefiting individuals with pulmonary embolism.

  • Rehabilitation Potential: Lower psoas muscle area helps tailor rehabilitation strategies to preserve and improve muscle mass, aiding patient recovery and enhancing quality of life.

4. An article on the effect of BMI on tightness of iliopsoas in students during covid gave insight on ‘relation between BMI and iliopsoas muscle tightness in online class’. It highlighted the potential musculoskeletal consequences of sedentary behavior and prolonged sitting, particularly in the student population.


This research highlighted the importance of maintaining the health and flexibility of the iliopsoas muscles:

  • Biomechanical Function: The iliopsoas muscles are crucial for hip flexion in activities like walking, running, climbing stairs, and sitting.

  • Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Flexible iliopsoas muscles are essential for daily tasks like getting up, bending, and lifting. Lack of flexibility hinders these movements and affects functionality.

  • Posture and Spine Health: Tight iliopsoas muscles can cause an anterior pelvic tilt, leading to increased stress on the lumbar spine and potentially contributing to poor posture and low back pain.

  • Musculoskeletal Health: Maintaining iliopsoas flexibility helps prevent musculoskeletal discomfort, particularly in the lower back and hip region. Flexible muscles reduce the risk of developing issues like low back pain.

  • Injury Prevention: Tight iliopsoas muscles increase injury risk during forceful hip movements. Flexibility reduces strain, preventing strains, sprains, and injuries.

Treatment & Techniques for Maintaining Iliopsoas: -

  • Treating and maintaining flexibility in the iliopsoas muscles can be achieved through targeted exercises, such as specific yoga stretches.

  • Yoga poses that focus on hip opening and stretching, such as the Low Lunge, Pigeon Pose, and Reclining Bound Angle Pose, can help release tension and promote flexibility in the psoas muscles.

These stretches can be incorporated into regular routine or yoga practice to enhance the health and flexibility of the iliopsoas muscles.

  • The Psoas Syndrome is mainly treated by physical exercises. These exercises are demonstrated by a doctor or physical therapist. These exercises stretch and manipulate the spine, hip joints, and psoas muscles.

  • At home, stretching and low-impact dynamic exercises are done to enhance flexibility and strength in the psoas muscle. It's important to follow a doctor's guidance to prevent further injury.

  • Additional treatments may include osteopathic manipulative treatment, ultrasound therapy, and injections if necessary.

Yogic Stretch for Psoas Muscles: -

To improve flexibility and alleviate tightness in the hip area, follow this yoga stretch of “Ardha Pawanmuktasana” step-by-step:


  1. Start by finding a clear space where you can lie down comfortably, such as a yoga mat or carpeted floor.

  2. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you.

  3. Bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest, while keeping your left leg extended.

  4. Reach your right hand around the back of your right thigh and gently pull your knee closer to your chest. You should feel a stretch in the front of your hip and possibly down into your thigh.

  5. Keep your left leg extended and relaxed on the floor. You can also place a pillow or folded blanket under your head or lower back for added support and comfort.

  6. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds to one minute, while focusing on deep and relaxed breathing.

  7. Slowly release the stretch by lowering your right leg back down to the floor.

  8. Repeat the stretch on the other side by bending your left knee and bringing it toward your chest.

  9. Remember to listen to your body and adjust the intensity of the stretch as needed. You should feel a gentle, comfortable stretch, but never pain.

  10. Aim to perform this stretch at least once on each side, and you can repeat it multiple times throughout the day if desired.


  • The most versatile pose/ yogic stretch- which can be done anywhere at home/office/grassy outdoors is the Anjaney-asana (Low Lunge) Pose. You need only 1 minute to perform this. It helps you in maintaining a good posture with proper alignment.

Follow these steps to perform the yogic Anjaney-asana pose -

  1. Find a carpeted area or place a cloth/towel on the ground or floor.

  2. Drop your left knee down, extending your left leg away from your body with your toes touching the ground.

  3. Place your right leg in front, foot flat on the ground, creating a 90-degree angle.

  4. Use your buttock strength to gently drive your left knee backward and down.

  5. Maintain good posture with tall shoulders and an upright head.

  6. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the steps from second to fifth for the opposite leg for another 30 seconds.

Incorporating Anjaney-asana (Low Lunge) and Ardha Pawanmuktasana (Half Gas Release Pose) into your routine will help you to relieve tight psoas muscles, prevent back pain, improve flexibility. It promotes spinal health along with many more benefits which you will learn by reading the next section i.e., Advantages of yoga stretch.


Advantages Of Yoga Stretch For Healthy Psoas: -

The potential benefits of maintaining a flexible and healthy psoas muscle are-


  1. Improved posture: Stretching the psoas helps maintain proper alignment of the spine and pelvis, leading to better posture.

  2. Reduced lower back pain: Stretching the psoas can alleviate tension in the muscle, reducing lower back pain.

  3. Increased hip mobility: Flexible psoas muscles enhance the range of motion in the hips, improving movements like walking, running, and squatting.

  4. Enhanced athletic performance: A flexible psoas muscle improves hip and core strength, benefiting athletic activities.

  5. Reduced stress and tension: Stretching the psoas releases tension and promotes relaxation, reducing overall stress levels.

  6. Improved digestion and organ function: Releasing tension in the psoas can enhance circulation and digestion, benefiting organ health.

Wrap Up

The iliopsoas muscle is a vital component of our core, playing a key role in posture, movement, and overall well-being. The psoas syndrome, characterized by tightness or dysfunction, can cause discomfort and various symptoms which can be diagnosed and treated by medical professionals. Physiotherapy and targeted exercises are important for addressing this condition. Additionally, incorporating yoga asanas and regular stretching can help maintain flexible and strong psoas. Prioritizing the care of the psoas muscle can lead to improved posture, reduced stress, enhanced athletic performance, and better overall physical health.


FAQs: -

Q1- What is the most unique fact about the psoas?

Ans- It is the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body, playing a crucial role in core stability, movement, and overall body balance.


Q2- Can tight psoas affects emotions and mental well-being?

Ans- Yes, the chronic tension in the psoas may impact emotions and contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

Q3- Which feelings are trapped in psoas?

Ans- Stress, fear and anxiety.


Q4- Will psoas heal on its own?

Ans- Mild to moderate psoas muscle strains or tightness can often heal on their own with rest and gentle stretching, but severe or chronic issues may require professional intervention for proper healing.


Q5- Is yoga good for psoas?

Ans- Yes, yoga can be beneficial for the psoas muscle by helping to stretch and strengthen it, improving its flexibility and function.

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Sep 17, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very useful

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Sep 17, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Good information

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Sep 17, 2023
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