Even if you've never heard of the psoas muscle, you've probably got some tightness in these muscles at the front of your hips. Psoas muscle stretches can help.
Pain in the area of your hip flexors can sometimes be a sign of an underlying low back or hip joint condition. See a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What's a Psoas?
The psoas muscles — major and minor — are part of the main pair of muscles that flex the hip, or lift your thigh up in the air, according to Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics. The other muscle, called iliacus, merges with the psoas to connect to the femur, or the large bone in your thigh. Together they are called the iliopsoas muscle, as described by ExRx.net. When your feet are planted on the ground, this muscle helps you bend forward at the waist.
If you're like most people and sit a lot of the time, you likely have some posture issues, including tightness in your psoas muscle. This muscle is placed in a shortened position when you're seated. Over time, muscle fibers accommodate and become more difficult to stretch back out. For example, you might notice a pulling sensation at the front of your hips when you first stand up after sitting for a while.
Less commonly, the psoas muscle can become tight after an injury — a condition called psoas syndrome. Although rare, this problem causes low back, buttock and groin pain and can make it difficult to stand up straight, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Regardless of the cause of your tightness, psoas muscle stretches can make all the difference.
Easy Psoas Stretches and Exercises
Treating your tight muscle doesn't have to be cumbersome. Incorporate easy psoas stretches and exercises, as described by Enhance Physiotherapy, into your workout routine.
Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times on each leg. Perform foam rolling exercises to break up connective tissue adhesions that can lead to tight psoas muscles.
Move 1: Runner's Lunge Stretch
- Stagger your feet approximately two feet apart in a lunge position.
- Bend both knees and lower your back knee down to the ground.
- Keeping your chest up, shift your weight over your front knee until you feel a strong pull along the front of your hip on the back leg.
- To intensify the stretch, move your back knee further backward.
Move 2: Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold onto a wall or other sturdy object if needed for balance.
- Bend your left knee. Reach behind your body with your left hand and grab your foot.
- Pull your foot in toward your buttock until you feel a stretch along the front of your left hip and down the front of your thigh.
Move 3: The "Couch" Stretch
- Move into a hands-and-knees position with your back to the couch, wall or another elevated surface.
- Bend your left knee and scoot it back against the couch with your toes pointed toward the ceiling.
- Intensify the stretch by bringing your right leg forward into a lunge position.
- Make it even harder by lifting your torso upright, bringing your low back toward the couch.
Move 4: Thomas Stretch
- Lie on your back on a firm surface with both legs overhanging the edge of the bed or table. Lift one thigh toward your chest.
- Wrap your arms around your knee or underneath it if you have pain in this area.
- Gently pull your knee in toward your chest while making sure the opposite leg is relaxed.
- Stop when you feel a pull along the front of your thigh on the relaxed leg.
Move 5: Foam Rolling Hip Flexors
- Lie with the front of your right thigh on the foam roller.
- Bend your left knee and bring your leg out to the side. Rest the inside of your left knee on the ground.
- Rest your forearms on the ground in front of your roller.
- Roll over your hips flexors, from just below your hip bone to just above your kneecap.
- Complete 10 passes on each leg.
Psoas Stretch and Yoga
Psoas stretches and yoga go hand-in-hand. Incorporate yoga poses that stretch your hip flexors, as described by the Yoga Journal, to improve flexibility and core strength. Hold each pose for at least 30 seconds, and repeat on both sides.
Move 1: Lord of the Dance
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Shift your weight onto your left foot and bend your right knee, lifting your right leg behind you.
- Reach behind with your right hand and grasp your foot.
- Hinge forward at the hips and reach your left arm straight out in front of you for balance.
Move 2: Upward-Facing Dog
- Lie on your stomach on a firm surface.
- Place your palms on the ground, underneath your shoulders.
- Slowly straighten your elbows, lifting your chest off the ground.
- Arch your back until you feel a strong pull along the front of both hips, stretching your psoas muscles.
Move 3: Bow Pose
- Lie on your stomach with your arms resting by your sides.
- Bend your knees and bring your heels toward your buttocks.
- Grab each ankle with your hands, keeping your knees hip-width apart.
- Lift your heels away from your buttocks and lift your thighs off the ground. Your head and torso will also lift at the same time.
- Relax your shoulders and look straight ahead during this movement.
Move 4: Camel Pose
- Move into tall kneeling, with your lower legs on the ground and hips straight.
- Reach behind you and place your palms against your pelvis. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Push your hips forward and drop your hands down to your heels.
Move 5: Bridge Pose
- Lie on your back with your arms resting by your sides.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
- Squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off the floor as high as you comfortably can, but no higher than thighs parallel to the floor.