What is the psoas?
The iliopsoas muscles (or hip flexor muscles) are extremely important to our biomechanics. These muscles are the main connection between our axial skeleton (our trunk) and lower appendicular skeleton (our pelvis and legs). It’s used in many motions we do every day, including sitting, standing, walking, running, bending, and helps to stabilize your spine during all of your dynamic motion.
The psoas major and some of the psoas minor attach directly to our spinal segments, starting its connection in the lower thoracic area (the start of the small of your back), then connects to each spinal segment in the lumbar spine. Pieces of the muscle attach not only to parts of these vertebrae, but also the lumbar discs! The psoas major and minor muscles then join with another muscle called the illiacus, which attaches to the pelvic brim and travels through the pelvis to attach to the side of the hip. (1) Parts of this muscle even attach to our diaphragm on top and our pelvic floor musculature on the bottom! All of these connections within the body are part of the reason that makes the psoas an important component to your biomechanics. The psoas muscles also support your internal organs - they work like hydraulic pumps allowing blood and lymph to be pushed in and out of your cells! (2)
What causes problems with the psoas?
How do you know if you have a problem with your psoas?
The psoas checks are one of my favorite checks I do as part of your care in our office. By using a simple test that involves bringing your hands over your head while in a face-up position, we can see if there’s potential imbalance or misfiring in our psoas muscles on either side. Sometimes adjusting the spine and pelvis alone will clear out any imbalance in the psoas muscles (this tells us that restriction in some spinal segments was the cause of the imbalance due to improper neurological feedback to the muscle from improper movement of our joints) and sometimes we have to do some extra muscle work and prescribe specific stretches to help address the more chronic dysfunction in the muscle itself.