Runners frequently suffer from hip soreness and inflammation due to overuse of certain muscles, impaired gait or poor running posture. The psoas muscle is often the culprit since it flexes and extends the hip and helps raise the leg while running and kicking. Stretches, self myofascial release and strength training for the psoas and entire hip flexor complex can do a lot to alleviate pain caused by overuse. Core strengthening and flexibility will help control posture when running to further reduce the workload of the psoas.
Functional Anatomy of the Psoas
The psoas works with the iliacus muscle. The two together allow flexion of the hip and explosive kicking motions bringing the leg forward. The psoas connects the spine to the thigh at the top of the femur. Pain often occurs from inflammation near the top of the femur but can also occur at the origin in the low back if a runner has poor posture while running, curvature of the spine or is compensating for another injured muscle.
Stretches for the Psoas
Dynamic stretches include slow and controlled straight-leg kickouts while walking, walking lunges and sideways walking. Dynamic stretches are best done as a warmup before a jog or before sprinting. Static stretching the psoas is most effective after you are already warmed up. Static, or isometric, stretches for the psoas include butterfly stretch and figure-four stretch. Self myofascial release techniques using a foam roller, tennis ball or medicine ball also reduce pain if practiced diligently.
Strength Training for the Psoas
Leg extension and leg press machines work the psoas because it is a synergist to the quadriceps. Free-weight exercises like squats and lunges strengthen the psoas and also make the lower back strong. Yoga moves do, too, including the stepup to balance and Standing Crane pose. The psoas is a deep muscle and is not the prime mover for most weight exercises, but it is strengthened by performing these exercises.
Running Gait Analysis
Stretching and strengthening can help, but balanced and effective running technique also is important. A professional gait evaluation can work wonders. Many specialist running stores, physical therapists and orthopedists offer gait analysis with a video evaluation. As with any pain, a sore psoas muscle should be paid attention to immediately. If stretching and proper warmup and cool down does not resolve the pain over time, a licensed professional needs to diagnose the problem. Muscle tears, bone stress fractures and arthritis will not resolve with stretching and strength training alone.