Anatomy Moment: Iliopsoas

What is your iliopsoas? Where is it? And why should you care?

In the most basic description, the iliopsoas is part of the “Hip Flexor” group. The iliopsoas muscle is actually a duo consisting of the Iliacus and Psoas Major muscles.

They’re the strongest for the job they do – flex the hip. But to get to know each muscle more intimately, see below..

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ILIACUS
Actions: Flex the hip, Laterally rotate the hip, Flex the torso toward the thigh, Tilt the pelvis anteriorly.
Attaching: at the top of the hip bone to below the hip joint. You could think of it as where you’d put your hands on your hips. Your iliacus rests under where your fingertips land.

PSOAS MAJOR
Action: The same as above plus assist to laterally flex the lumbar (lower) spine.
Attaching: from the lower spinal vertebrae to below the hip joint. It extends diagonally from your lower spine to the front of your hip.

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When would you use these beauties? Standing, walking, and perhaps while doing sit-ups – to name a few examples. If you’ve taken [especially] a yoga class, you may have heard the cue to not fire from the hip flexors.

Often times – because of the job they do – it is easier for us as humans to engage the hip flexors instead of our abdominal muscles. If you find yourself becoming too familiar with your hip flexors (over-using them), then you might want to remind yourself where your abs are. 😉

Another common way to anger your iliopsoas is to sit for long periods of time without taking breaks. You see, the flexors do want to work and be useful, but they don’t want to be over-worked. They also don’t want to remain in a scrunched up position while you sit all day….. [This has been a paid-for advertisement from your iliopsoas.]

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Please allow me to now give you plenty of options to apologize to your iliopsoas.
1) Drink water. This will actually solve two problems – keeping the muscles hydrated to keep fresh blood and nutrients pumping, as well as to get you up and walking to the bathroom. Thumbs up for hydration!
2) Selfmassage. (If you’re already a client of mine, I feel your smiles through the internet.) I have found that using a dimple softball for this area works best. It’s wider than a tennis or lacrosse ball so it really enables you to get to the muscle belly. You could also use a tennis or lacrosse ball on top of a foam block or a couple books.
SET UP: (for your right iliopsoas) Lay flat on the floor on your back. Using your fingers find your belly button, go right about 3″ and down 1″. Place the ball here. Roll to your belly (keeping the ball in place). At this point, just breathe with your body resting and the ball pressing into your iliopsoas. Let your breathing and gravity do the job.


3) Stretch. My favorite stretch is a simple one you can do on your bed (morning and/or night).
SET UP: (for your left side) Lay flat on your back in a bed or on a couch with your left leg draped off the surface. The end. …Seriously, that is it. Stay here for as long as it feels good. (Numbness and tingling mean you’ve gone too long.)

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What I detailed was a brief summation of the iliopsoas. If you’d like to geek out over some fun anatomy terms and visuals, check out this helpful video. An added note.. the plural of  “psoas” is “psoe or psoi”.

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**Thanks to Trail Guide to the Body Flashcards by Andrew Biel for the iliopsoas actions and attachments bit.

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