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The Role of the Psoas Major in Low Back Pain

Updated on October 28, 2017
Dr Ryan French profile image

Dr. Ryan French is a dedicated family chiropractor, from Canada, with a special interest in pregnancy and pediatric care, since 2000.

Where is the Psoas Major and What Does It Do?

The Psoas Major (PM) is an “s” shaped muscle that, as you can see in the picture, extends from the 5 lowest spinal vertebra, through the pelvis, to the leg bone.

The job of the PM is to stabilize the lower back as you lift your knee upwards, such as in walking, climbing stairs, and other such activities. The PM will always limit lower spine mobility when tense and tired, and is often involved in the type of low back pain that is aggravated by walking up the stairs, standing for long periods of time, or kneeling on both knees with an upright body.

Unfortunately, the main thing that causes chronic PM tightness is sitting. People who have to drive a lot, or sit at a desk most of the day, are always in a position that shortens the PM muscle. With enough hours behind the desk, the PM becomes perpetually shortened.

Athletes who exercise with a tight PM elevate their risk of injuring their low back, hip and groin – one more reason it’s so important to warm up before activity!

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Best Way To Fix A Tight Psoas Major

  1. The best strategy is always prevention! Get up and move regularly. If you have to sit at a desk for your job, it is critical to get up and move around regularly, at least once per hour.
  2. Stretch! Stretch out your hips daily. Look online for unique ways to stretch the psoas major muscle and the other hip muscles.
  3. Massage. A good massage therapist can help to release a chronically tight psoas major muscle. Find a registered one, they often have a more thorough understanding of anatomy.
  4. Chiropractic. If you find that techniques above don't help, you may have an underlying cause, such as a pelvic misalignment, that is adding to the problem. Consult a chiropractor for a proper assessment.

Dr. Ryan Demonstrates the Top 3 Stretches for Low Back Pain

Reader poll:

How often do you have back pain?

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In Summary:

  • The Psoas Major is a muscle that attaches to both the lower back and the leg.
  • It is chronically shortened in people who sit for long periods of time.
  • People who drive for their job are especially susceptible because it is more difficult to take regular breaks compared to those that work at a computer.
  • Everyone can benefit from doing the 3 stretches outlines above, to bring balance back to the low back and pelvic region.
  • Recurring back pain should be evaluated by a specialist in this area. A chiropractor is a good first step.

© 2017 Dr Ryan French

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 months ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this review of these exercises. Very well done, and that's the best video I've seen on any of the three exercises. I've found the second one, eye of the needle, to be extremely useful for my needs. Love that this video shows there's no need to change into exercise clothing to do them!

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