The psoas is a large, powerful muscle that runs from the lower back to the femur (thigh bone). Having tight psoas muscles is common, but people can use simple stretches to relieve tension.

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The psoas muscle supports the spine and helps pull a person’s leg toward their body as they walk or run. If a person sits for long periods or does not stretch properly, the muscle can become tight and cause pain in the lower back, hips, and legs.

Yoga poses, kneeling stretches, and standing stretches are all effective ways to stretch the psoas muscle and relieve tension.

Read on to learn more about psoas stretches, yoga poses, preventing psoas pain, and more.

A person performing a static lunge.
Dima Bazak

The following stretches can help release the psoas muscle:

  • Lunge stretches: Start in a lunge position with the front knee over the ankle and the back leg in line with the hips. Rest the back knee on the ground and focus on opening the chest, leaning slightly back. A person should feel a stretch through the front hip.

  • Table stretch: A person should start by lying on their back on a stable table or bench and allow one leg to hang over the edge. The weight of the leg stretches the psoas. If a person does not feel a stretch, try pulling one knee in toward the chest.

A person performing a frog stretch.
Active Body. Creative Mind.
  • Frog stretch: Kneel on the floor and gently lean forward, resting weight on the forearms. Point the toes out to the sides.

  • Standing pelvic tilt: Stand up straight with shoulders back and chest pointing upward. Push the pelvis back and under. Hold for several seconds and release.

A person performing a bridge.
Dima Bazak

  • Ground bridge: Lay flat on the back with feet on the floor and knees bent. Gently engage the core and glutes to lift the pelvis. Hold, lower, and repeat.

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Several yoga poses can help lengthen and release the psoas muscle, including:

  • Boat Pose: Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage the core and lean back, keeping the back straight, and raise the feet off the ground. Straighten the legs to form a V-shape with the spine. Reach the arms out in front while keeping the spine upright. If this is too difficult, keep the feet on the floor.

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  • Pyramid Pose: This deep forward fold starts from the standing position. Step one foot forward and fold the arms behind the back. Hinge at the hips and fold the upper body toward the front thigh.

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  • Tree Pose: From standing, shift the weight onto one foot. Bring the sole of the other foot to the inside of the standing thigh. Extend the arms overhead or bring the palms together at the chest.

Psoas pain can be very uncomfortable and restrict movement.

If a person spends a lot of time sitting, the psoas can become shortened and tight. It can also shorten if a person sleeps on their side.

Additionally, people can strain their psoas from overuse and excessive or strenuous exercise.

A condition called psoas syndrome can develop if the muscle is injured. This often happens to athletes such as runners, dancers, and high jumpers.

There are several things a person can do to prevent psoas pain and tightness, including:

  • stretching regularly
  • avoiding sitting for long periods of time
  • exercising regularly
  • conditioning the muscles of the hips, buttocks, and lower back
  • warming up thoroughly before exercise
  • resting and recovering after heavy physical activity

If a person experiences lower back pain, they should speak with a doctor.

Besides issues with the psoas, several other conditions can cause lower back pain, and some of them require medical treatment. For example, a person could have a herniated disc, arthritis of the hip, or iliopsoas bursitis, which is inflammation of the bursa in the hip joint. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to complications.

In rare cases, an individual may also develop a collection of pus that forms in the psoas muscle. While this is very uncommon, it is a possible complication underlining the importance of seeking timely medical attention for lower back pain.

The psoas is a large muscle that attaches the lower spine to the leg. It is responsible for the movement and stabilizing functions of the hip and pelvis.

Psoas pain can occur if the muscle becomes shortened or tight due to inactivity or other health conditions, leading to pain in the lower back and legs. However, stretching and yoga poses can help lengthen and release the muscle. Regular exercise, stretching, and proper warm-up techniques can also prevent future psoas pain.

If a person has lower back pain, they should contact a doctor to rule out other causes of their symptoms.