Muscle of the Month – Iliopsoas Muscle

For those of you that enjoyed last month’s featured muscle, we have the latest installment of Muscle of the Month.

The Iliopsoas muscle is often overlooked in training and in the treatment of lower back pain. In this addition of the muscle of the month we will look at ways to tell if you have a weak or shortened Iliopsoas muscle, and ways to stretch and strengthen your Iliopsoas muscle. We will also look at injuries to the psoas and their effect on the lower back and core.

The Iliopsoas muscle is actually broken into 3 muscles, the Psoas major, Psoas minor, and the Iliacus muscle. The Psoas major originates from the lumbar vertebra, lumbar discs, and transverse processes and inserts into the lesser trochanter of the Femur. The Iliacus muscle originates from the anterior fossa of the Ilium and joins with the Psoas major to form a common tendon that inserts into the lesser trochanter of the femur. Both muscles go under the inguinal ligament before inserting into the lesser trochanter of the Femur.

These muscles function with the other hip flexor muscles to flex the hip when your trunk / spine are fixed, or to flex the trunk / spine when the legs are fixed. In other words, the Iliopsoas either raises your thigh to your body, or bends your body towards your thighs.

The Iliopsoas muscle is very important in maintaining the proper lumbar lordotic curvature, and pelvic tilt in all activities. People who are in sedentary jobs, or sit or drive for long hours are prone to shortened hip flexors. Long hours training on a bicycle can also contribute to a tight Iliopsoas. If you have a shortened Iliopsoas muscle your pelvis tilts anterior, which will cause your lumbar curve to increase thus altering your spine and pelvic biomechanics. Running with this over time will increase the wear and tear on your lumbar intervertebral discs, and sacroiliac joints leading to lower back and sacroiliac pain.

To test yourself for tight Iliopsoas you have to lie on a bed or bench and take one knee into your chest. Then try to lower your opposite leg and knee off of the side of the bed. If your knee stays above or does not touch the bed you have a tight Iliopsoas muscle.

To stretch the Iliopsoas lunges with a foot on a chair and bend into the knee on the chair. This opens and stretches the opposite hip flexor. This can also be done with a knee on the floor and leaning into the bent knee opening and stretching the opposite side. For an additional stretch you can lift the arm on the side opposite of the bent knee and side bend to the side of your bent knee.

There are many ways to strengthen your Iliopsoas you can do your favorite abdominal exercises like crunches. One legged standing balance work is good for creating strength and stability in the core muscles. Dead bug exercises, (lying on your back and moving the arms and legs like a dead bug) strengthens the abdominals and Iliopsoas. 3 sets of 30 seconds or 1 minute of the dead bugs will get you in shape with a 30 second rest in between sets. Planks and bridges also will help strengthen the Iliopsoas and abdominals creating a solid core.

Dr. David Ness is a certified sports chiropractor practicing in New Paltz, N.Y.  Dr. Ness is the official chiropractor and Active Release Techniques provider for the Vassar College Athletic Dept.  Dr. Ness  has worked at the Lake Placid Ironman event as part of the ART treatment team since 2004.  Dr. Ness has been the ART provider for the Hudson Valley Tri Club since 2005 years providing free ART care after club races.  Dr. Ness also provides treatment at NYTC races around the NY metro area, and continues to work as part of the SOS Triathlon post-race care team, and at American Zofingen Ultra Duathlon.