Psoas major (pronounced ‘so-az’), is located in the deep abdominals. It originates at the at the lower vertebrae (T12-L5) and attaches to the front of the femur. Its main function is to flex the hip when the spine is in a fixed position, but it also aids in curving the lower spine.
Psoas is the often forgotten hip flexor that can cause pain in the front of the leg, abdominals, groin and lower back.
Pain from trigger points in psoas can cause pain down into the groin and scrotal areas, mimic appendicitis or period pain, and cause a ‘band’ of pain across the lower back.
When treating psoas I generally use deep tissue and manual myofascial release. It is very difficult muscle to dry needle due to it’s deep location and proximity to other major organs. Some cupping to the insertion point on the upper femur can help but massage to the abdominals is often the best method.
Other techniques like pin and shift, where the therapist puts pressure on the muscle and has the client activate their hip can work, simple compression to the muscle, or counter strain technique where the muscle is passively held in position for up to 90 seconds is also effective if the client is relaxed enough.
Taking care of psoas can mean a lot of relief from groin and lower back pain.
What can cause tension in psoas? Long periods with the hip flexors active, such as long drives with the foot on the accelerator. Cycling can cause a lot of tension in the hip flexors, psoas in particular, as the back is often in the the foreshortened position.
Stretches to psoas can be effective if done correctly. A deep lunge position, dipping into the groin, and sometimes stretching the arm of the same side up and laterally over the head can help.
Yoga poses effective for psoas and hip flexors include warrior poses, either kneeling or on toes, pigeon pose and bridge pose.
Be sure to counter balance any prolonged hip flexor foreshortening, like fixed seated positions with stretches in the opposite position.