Psoas what's the big deal?

In my experience of working within the sector, there seems to be a huge obsession with the "Psoas muscle", almost every performer knows of its existence and the same number have beliefs that theirs is tight. This is partly due to practitioners they have seen telling them exactly that. So the next logical step is to “release” it. For anyone who hasn’t had the psoas “released”, its incredibly painful and usually entails someone digging around in you pelvis or abdominal area, potentially asking you to move your leg whilst it’s being done. My eyes are watering just writing this.

Figure 1 Iliopsoas anatomy

Before I challenge any beliefs it’s probably best to introduce the anatomy. The Psoas that is commonly referred to is Iliopsoas, which is a combination of Psoas Major and Iliacus, as they share a distal tendon and attachment on to the femur. Psoas Major originates from the anterior aspect (between your spine and organs) of the lumber spines transverse processes, whereas the iliacus originates from the inner side of the ilium. The travel downwards and merge via a conjoined tendon to the lesser trochanter of the femur, via the psoas tendon.

Figure 2 Psoas Major anatomy

What do they do I hear you ask? Well, the text books say they flex your hip (lift your leg forwards), however it’s far more complex than that. As a group these muscles do help with hip flexion during certain ranges of motion, they control your pelvis’ anterior/posterior rotation, and Psoas Major will help compact your spine. So a little more complex than the textbooks may suggest.

Figure 3 Iliacus anatomy

The muscle group tends to respond rather predictably when it comes to weakness, it will get tighter. A primitive reflex that occurs to protect the muscle as it doesn’t want to have to work at longer lengths due to the weakness making if difficult to control such ranges. It also responds in a similar way around a variety of hip pathologies, which can further inhibit the muscle. That said, stretching it may not be the best thing for it.

 

The evidence strongly suggests that targeting the muscle with strengthening exercises is a much greater way of improving its function and reducing the sense of tightness you may feel coming from the muscle. With increased strength, there is a reduction in the need for tightness as a defence mechanism against weakness. Allowing a freer range of motion that your body has the capacity to control. Of course there are multiple ways of strengthening this muscle and affecting this "tight” symptoms, some are more valid that others.

 

The current, highly utilised method of addressing this tightness is to stretch. This may well give you short term symptom modification which at some points is very desirable but if you are looking for a long term solution which will help keep the hip joint happy, improve your ability to control your hip and pelvis and give you a greater ability to produce force, then a targeted strengthening strategy will most likely be a better option for you.

 

Many thanks for reading

 

Barry

@barry.sigrist