The Pull of a Tight Psoas Muscle

The pull of a tight psoas muscle can take many forms and changes considerably as the muscle gets tighter. We’ll start by looking at what a well aligned psoas muscle can do for the body.

The psoas muscle, with the piriformis and gluteus maximus, are the only three muscles in the body that connect the legs to the spine. Together they essentially keep the pelvis and trunk upright on top of the legs. When you have a tight psoas muscle it is often on one side. In many instances both psoas can be tight but most often we are dealing with tightness on one side.

If the psoas muscle is happy it keeps the lumbar spine in its natural curve and allows the muscles of the spine to lengthen up supporting the whole trunk. But lets say that on the left side you have a tight psoas muscle, that leg bone will be pulled up into the hip socket slightly. This accounts for the concept of leg length discrepancy. We all have one leg shorter than the other and this is almost always the result of your tight psoas muscle. In some cases there might actually be a bone size difference, especially in the case of blunt force trauma such as car accidents and such. But for the most part our leg length discrepancy is due to a tight psoas muscle.

The pull of the tight psoas muscle that you can see in the picture above is a fairly classic pattern. I know that at any of my workshops I’ll be able to bring numerous people to the front of the room that exhibit this exact pattern.

And this pattern can be the cause of a many different manifestations of pain. Lower back pain, hip pain, groin pain and the list goes on. Releasing the psoas via exercises and posture work can help you find relief that we often think is no longer available.

When one psoas is tighter than the other, the leg is pulled up into the hip socket on the tight side and since one of the basic functions of the psoas is external rotation, that leg is often turned out more than the other.

In the trunk the image above shows that a tight psoas muscle can shorten the body on the tight side. This tightness manifests by a pulling up on the hip socket and a pulling down on the shoulder drawing the two bony landmarks closer to each other.

This is a little counter-intuitive because you might be thinking that if the right hip is higher the right shoulder should be higher as well but the tight psoas constricts that entire side of the body.

This is just one variation on the pull of a tight psoas. More severe tightness can lead to scoliosis and in extreme cases a hunchback.

Gentle release work that almost anyone can do can help you find relief from so many nagging issues that go undiagnosed and often leave you without any hope of healing because doctors, MRI’s and x-rays often report that seems to be no problem.

If you found this post to be helpful, you might be interested in my Psoas Release Party! video set. The psoas is the most important muscle in the body and involved in almost all pain issues.

For a limited time we are offering my Psoas Release Party! video on sale at a specially discounted price. The Psoas Release Party! will enlighten you about the majesty of this muscle and share exercises that serve both yoga students and teachers.

Click below for more information and get a free psoas infographic.

  1. I have had a problem for months with the right side of my buttock going into a spasm and then my body was pulled to the left, my stomach seemed to swell and trying to pull it in just made the spasm in the buttock worse. I realised after some time that this happened when went to help out in a local charity shop, after a few hours there hanging clothes etc my lower back would begin to ache if I sat down any pressure on the right buttock would cause it to start to cramp so I stood up, by the time I got home the spasm in the right buttock happened and I was pulled to the left. I couldn’t move once I got into bed I felt as tho i was set in concrete the only way to get out was to shuffle on my stomach off the bed until my toes touched the floor and then push myself up. The next day I felt as tho I had been hit by a truck and it took ages for me to get going but the spasming didnt come back if I didnt go into the shop and I felt that things were gradually getting better then 4 weeks ago whilst in town I sat sideways on a bench for about half an hour that evening the pains down the back of my calf and the pins and needles which I had had for a few weeks became horrendous and the pain was excrutiating I went to the docs and he sent me to see a physio who diagnosed a slipped disc and told me to do the cobra excercise which involves bending the spine back as far as possible whilst lying on your stomach suddenly not only could I not get out of bed now I couldnt get in so I think those excercises made things worse. I saw another physio who said stop doing them and the doc has now said its the iliopsoas muscles I am taking a muscle relaxant at night but whereas before I sat on the bench and when I didnt go to the shop I was back to being myself staining the decking etc now I have lower back pain, have to take a bath every morn to help, my groin aches and generally I feel worse, the physio has told me to sit and put my legs to the left and slowly slide my hands to my ankles several times a day and before I get up and at night to lift my bent knees to my chest, tried it this morn before getting out of bed and when i got up i could hardly stand. Thing is, as I was always being pulled to the left it would seem that that is the strongest side and the tightest, so as I have been told to sit with my legs to the left as I slide my legs down then surely the left is not being released as the only stretch I am feeling is in my right buttock. I feel everything is getting worse and all i do is shuffle about the house.

    • Lynn,
      I had a very similar situation and no exercise or stretch helped until my naturopath suggested magnesium injections. I thank her every time I think of the pain.I still had to see a chiropractor to repair some of the damage to my spine from the seized muscles and I still need magnesium shots about every two months. I tried taking supplements, but, I just don’t absorb it well enough.
      Your story was so similar, especially the description of getting out of bed and how it just gets worse and worse, that I thought I’d share.
      Just a note that this was what drove me to the naturopath as I got nowhere with my Doctor.

  2. I have suffered back pain for a lot of years and being a nurse for 25 years hasn’t helped. I received a traumatic spondylithiasis grade 2 when at swimming training a girl accidently jumped on my back pushing me to the bottom of the pool smashing my front tooth. In my teenage years there wasn’t a lot of therapy around so my parents took me to a chiropractor, looking back treatment in the 80’s was quite ruthless and has left me with arthritis in my neck and lower spine. I am so glad for treatments today they are a lot less invasive and more effective. Particularly Bowen therapy which I have been having for the last 15yrs. To my delight this week I have have found a therapist that has immediately removed my back pain and relieved my bilateral sciatic inflammation (I could feel the nerves leave illiac creast, all down back of leg into foot to great toe and when I would squat >90 degrees it sounded like crackling glass). I had xrays on my knees and there is no arthritis. I have the typical one leg longer and hips and shoulders twisted and tight hamstrings. I do lots of different exercises for this. I did a bit of research i thought it was my piraformis but not quite there, two pressure point touches on my psoas I got off the bed with no back pain and within the week most of the inflammation has gone from my sciatic, my knees dont sound like glass any more. What I would like to pass on is keep searching for answers, know your therapists and what they can do for you, I have been to chiropractors, osteopaths, physios and bowen therapists just for my back. Nothing beats a good bowen therapist in my experience. Two girls i have met this week, one is 18 with undiagnosed back problems, went to GP and all he said was its your posture and take panadol, the other was an ambulance officer developed sudden onset asthma at age of 23, has had Intensive care admissions for this and all the modern medical tests known have not given her any answers. We need to realise that our whole bodies are intrically linked and a misalignment can cause different medical conditions. Its a damn shame modern medicine hasn’t got time for natural therapy but ever have the fortune to meet one that has both believe me it is golden. Please stay away from quick fixes such as any sort of drugs, most degenerative back pains is a matter of diagnosis, (ensure u have an MRI) and physical therapy treatment. I say to people use the internet, get informed and ask your therapist questions. It gives them more information about u and a diagnosis can happen much quicker therefore costing less.
    Chinese Proverb I read recently:
    The Superior doctor prevents illness
    The Mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness,
    The Inferior doctor treats actual illness (some GP’s of today are time strapped to earn a ‘doctors’ wage and the government system has made them like this). i feel sorry for them but I feel more sorry for us.
    I always say that every family needs to have someone in health, there are 3 nurses in our family of 5.
    I am planning on studying in the new year and it will be away from modern medicine into some therapy most likely Bowen.

  3. So a flopped out foot is a sign of a tight psoas? Why don’t more people say this??? Mine flops in lying, but I don’t walk like a duck. Anyways, I will be getting the psoas tendon dry needled soon by an MD in Chicago at Rush Hospital. I saw a youtube video of some guy getting it done and his entire psoas jumped. It didn’t appear painful cuz he didn’t budge but it frightened the PT doing it. I think she was in training for dry needling. I personally have not found a PT who does needle this so I am happy to find an MD who will. Hoping for an awesome psaos release so I can feel what a lengthened one will feel like. My guess is it will feel pain-free! :)

  4. For the past 1 months my body feels unbalanced (leaning to left side). There is some pain and dizzyness , it is very odd feeling that I’m being pulled toward the left – this happens when I’m walking, standing and sitting. Visually everything looks fine and I can walk in a perfectly straight line and do all sorts of balance exercises. please advice me to come out od this , thanks

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