Where Is the Psoas Muscle And How To Stretch The Psoas Muscle

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Where is the Psoas Muscle?

Where is the psoas muscle is a question a surprising number of students ask even after studying with me for years?

How can it be that hard to remember where a muscle is?

Or maybe the question is why is it so hard to remember where a muscle is?

The psoas is a mysterious muscle.

For some reason, and I don’t really know why — it is off the radar of too many doctors and health care practitioners.

Where is the psoas muscle is a question a surprising number of students ask even after studying with me for years?

How can it be that hard to remember where a muscle is?

Or maybe the question is why is it so hard to remember where a muscle is?

The psoas is a mysterious muscle.

For some reason, and I don’t really know why — it is off the radar of too many doctors and health care practitioners.

And I’m not sure why since I think the psoas is the most important muscle in the body.

It is also the answer to many chronic pain issues that traditional methods fail to heal.

This post is for people who have spent a lot of time seeking out those traditional methods.

Where is the psoas muscle

You have been to multiple doctors, repeated rounds of physical therapy, maybe even undergone batteries of tests…

Only to be told that nothing is wrong.

And that can make you feel crazy.

The pain is real but the x-rays and MRI’s show that your spine looks okay, your hips are fine, and nothing seems to be off.

But here’s the thing — a tight psoas muscle causing you to live in a state of chronic pain won’t show up on tests, and if practitioners don’t have an understanding of what problems a tight psoas can cause, there is absolutely no reason why you would find relief.

In order to heal you have to step outside the box and look at things with a new approach. And knowing where the psoas muscle is key to your healing journey.

When I say the psoas is the muscle of pain and trauma— and this might be a stretch for some— I am suggesting that unprocessed energy that our body can’t handle at a given moment gets stored in the psoas muscle.

Bear with me because I know that is a bit out there but let me explain.

What is psoas?

Before I get there, here’s some more detail about the psoas.

The name 'psoas' is of Greek origin meaning 'muscle of the loin'.

Here is how to pronounce psoas: So-az, the P is silent.

The psoas is one of only three muscles that connect the legs to the spine and it connects the legs to the spine at the front of the body.

The other two, the gluteus maximus and piriformis muscles, connect the legs to the spine at the back of the body.

The psoas major muscle connects at 6 points along the spine and the leg.

where is the psoas muscle

The simple answer to where the psoas muscle is… deep in the core.

It attaches to the back of the body at the base of the rib cage, along the vertebrae of the lumbar spine, and at the front of the body on the back half of the femur, or leg bone.

Among the unique characteristics of the psoas is that it changes direction, which not many muscles do.

It moves forward from the bottom of the spine to cross the rim of the pelvis. Then it moves back to attach at the back of the leg.

That’s how and where the psoas connect.

Question: But what does the psoas muscle do?

Answer: It is the body’s main hip flexor which is important both physically and emotionally.

A flexor muscle brings two body parts closer together.

In the case of the psoas, that means lifting the foot up to take a step.

The hips must flex with each step we take and if done well, each step is initiated by the psoas.

The psoas also plays a role in situps, initiating the movement before the abdominal muscles take over.

But the question, where is the psoas muscle located, doesn’t get near the importance of this muscle.

Because when we talk about flexion we are also talking about the body’s fear response.

And fear is flexion.

And fear often lives in the psoas muscle.

Pain, trauma & the psoas.

When you want an answer to where the psoas muscle is you can also ask where trauma goes in the body?

Traumatic events or unprocessed energy from traumatic events live in the psoas muscle.

Here’s how it works.

Human beings are survivors. We are born to survive and to adapt in order to survive.

Survival requires safety or the feeling of safety but life is full of intense experiences both large and small that can get the best of us.

We can lose hold of that safety for many different reasons.

It could be that you live geographically in a place of conflict — such as a war zone, a bad neighborhood, or an emotionally or physically violent household.

It could be a car accident, a mugging, a near-death experience...

The list goes on…

When we no longer feel safe for whatever reason, the balance of our nervous system is thrown off and the body begins to compensate in order to get by.

Compensation for injury often takes the form of a limp.

But trauma and its aftermath can manifest in different ways including pain that doctors fail to diagnose.

That’s where the psoas muscle in all its mystery and majesty come in.

And while I know this might seem a little woo woo, and I know a lot of people might not think they fall into the category of someone suffering from trauma.

I also know that a number of people will read this and feel heard for the first time in a long painful journey.

Life is messy and complicated.

And it is not meant to be easy.

We are here to be traumatized and develop a support system to fend off the slings and arrows that life sends our way.

But some people are more sensitive than others and their nervous systems can’t cope as well.

And there are some events that simply can’t be processed as they are happening.

If the mind can’t handle something in real-time, it has the ability to lock the event somewhere out of reach.

But that somewhere out of reach of the mind is still in the body because that energy has to go somewhere.

And I think this unprocessed energy from traumatic events takes up residence in the psoas muscle.

What are the symptoms of a tight psoas muscle?

Everyone has one psoas muscle that is tighter than the other. Even if you don’t have psoas problems.

We all have a dominant side and those muscles are often stronger and/or tighter than the other.

A tight psoas that leads to pain tends to be much tighter and often, but not always, pulls the body into a pattern resembling the picture above.

Do you see yourself in that picture?

Where it gets interesting is that psoas pain symptoms can take a number of different forms.

where is the psoas muscle

And psoas pain can manifest in different places.

But before we cover the symptoms of a tight psoas muscle, we should discuss exactly what pain is.

Because pain isn’t a thing.

Pain is just a reaction in the body telling you that something is wrong.

When you get into a car accident or trip and sprain your ankle, pain can be especially useful because as it diminishes you know you are healing.

On the other hand, pain can also be a warning sign telling you to beware because trouble is brewing.

Think of a runner who develops hip pain over the course of months.

Mild soreness after a run that goes unattended can lead to chronic pain.

By failing to pay attention to the warning signs until it is too late, it is not uncommon to end up with a serious injury.

And all too many people don’t pay attention to those warning signs before it is too late.

Symptoms of a tight psoas:

  • Low back pain.
  • Hip pain.
  • Groin pain.
  • Wrapping pain from the groin to the low back.
  • High buttock pain.
  • Waking up to urinate multiple times a night.
  • Extreme menstrual cramps

And because of the psoas muscles’ deep connection to the spine and core, if you have an ankle injury that no one can diagnose or help you heal correctly…

It’s worth taking a look at this amazing muscle.

How to stretch the psoas muscle

At this point, I hope you have a sense of where the psoas muscle is.

And since it is deep in your core, so many exercises are psoas muscle stretches.

But more important than exercise, every well-executed step is a spinal twist, and therefore a psoas stretch on the opposite side.

Every breath we take, and again I have to emphasize that it needs to be a well-executed breath, is a gentle stretch of the psoas.

Bend over to tie your shoes? You got it… a psoas stretch.

where is the psoas

Earlier I mentioned that psoas related pain is often misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all.

When it is diagnosed the prescription is usually to stretch the psoas, and/or strengthen the psoas.

And I don’t want you to do either of those things.

If you want to get out of psoas muscle pain and all of its related symptoms, you have to learn how to align and use this muscle correctly.

And give it a break so that it can relax.

And that doesn’t involve stretching the way you think it does.

So much of what we do throughout the day involves the psoas major muscle.

Have you thought much about the way you breathe?

Not to be too cranky but most people don’t breathe well. Stand up tall and feel the way you breathe.

I will almost guarantee that your breath is a little shallow and mostly goes up into the chest.

I look at a lot of bodies and this is the overwhelming pattern I see.

If you learn to breathe better, which involves changing the way you stand to better align and employ the psoas muscle, healing is much more likely to happen.

And each breath becomes a gentle, and healing, psoas stretch.

Even the most sedentary person walks a few thousand steps a day. But most people don’t walk well.

If you don’t walk correctly (and I know most people don’t even think about how they walk) you miss out on thousands of gentle psoas muscle stretches throughout the day.

It is hard to emphasize enough that the body is a self-healing machine if employed well.

How to release the psoas muscle

Here is the most important advice I have for you.

You don’t need to stretch your psoas or strengthen your psoas.

You don’t need to do anything (let me explain).

How great would it be if you could find relief from your pain by doing less rather than more?

If that sounds good you need to learn a different type of exercise I call psoas release exercises.

What is a release exercise exactly? It is a whole lot of nothing.

And when it comes to chronic pain that no doctor or physical therapist has helped you with…

And when no medication or procedure has relieved your pain…

And you know your partner can’t bear to hear about it any longer…

Doing nothing to solve your chronic pain should sound like a pretty great option.

The psoas muscle doesn’t get much of a break.

It is working when you are standing. It works when you walk and run.

It’s working, though suffering when you sit.

It’s working when you exercise.

And it is working overtime when your body is put into situations that call for protection from fear, and worry for your safety.

So if I can show you how to relax in a way that gives this muscle a much-needed break, you might be able to take a step towards healing that you thought was out of your reach.

There’s no magic involved. It is simply about letting go.

Healing with less rather than more.

And if you have tried the “do more” approach over and over again it might be time to get off that hamster wheel.

Another cool thing about doing nothing the way I am talking about?

It can’t really hurt.

I know from years of working with the psoas muscle, it is easy to take one step forward only to take two steps backward when you try to do too much.

Does that sound familiar?

What does a psoas release feel like?

What does a psoas release feel like? Not much for most to be honest.

Which doesn’t mean it’s not working.

Another great thing about releasing the psoas is you might not feel anything during the exercise.

But as soon as you are done and stand up you can feel if there is a difference.

It will likely be subtle at first but will ultimately connect you to a sense of ease that you thought might be gone forever.

Benefits of psoas release exercises:

  • Looser hips.
  • Freedom of movement between the legs and pelvis.
  • Deeper sleep.
  • Emotional ease and equanimity.
  • No more back pain.
  • Better energy

The mysterious and majestic psoas muscle holds the key to unlocking years of chronic pain and tension for certain people.

When you have been struggling for years to find answers that never come, it might be time to take a step back and explore a minimalist approach to healing.


Is walking good for tight psoas?

Walking is great for tight psoas if you walk correctly. When walking correctly the psoas is employed with each step.
Learning to use the psoas as it is designed makes for quicker and longer-lasting healing.

How do I loosen my hip flexor and psoas?

Psoas release exercises are a great way to loosen the psoas and hip flexors. But it can be counter-productive to try and stretch your way out of pain.

With certain pain, it might work but once you have passed the chronic pain threshold (three months), stretching is not likely to be your answer.

Can psoas affect bowels?

A tight psoas muscle can affect both the bowels and urinary tract. There is only so much room in the abdomen and if a muscle is short, tight, or inflamed it will take up some very important real estate.

Does massage help psoas?

Massaging the area around the psoas can be helpful but in general, I don’t let anyone touch my psoas.
And if you are someone suffering chronic pain and tends to be sensitive to bodywork, I wouldn’t let anyone touch your psoas.

And I wouldn’t advocate finding out if you are sensitive by trying this type of exploration.