The psoas muscle is a major muscle in the human body, responsible for stabilizing the base of the spine, allowing the spine to flex, and rotating the hips for a free range of movement. When kept limber, the muscle functions smoothly with others to support an upright posture and a flexible lower spine and hips. When the psoas is strained or contracted, it can lead to limitations in free range of motion and an increase of lower back pain. For this reason, people should regularly engage in stretches to keep the muscle strong and limber.
The start of the psoas muscle is found in the lumbar, or lower spine, where the paired muscles anchor on either side of the spine. The muscles wrap around, into the pelvic area, and attach at the knobby part of the hip with several strong tendons. They are considered to be crucial among the hip flexor muscles, which allow people to bend their bodies into their hips and to pull their hips into their bodies.
Individuals who experience lower back or hip pain may have contracted psoas muscles that are not providing the support that they need. They should gently stretch to elongate their muscles and make them more flexible, as well as seeking medical attention if the pain continues, grows worse, or changes. Engaging in a regular physical fitness routine that includes stretching, such as Pilates or yoga, will help to keep the muscles aligned, strong, and flexible, along with other vital muscles of the body.
The most basic psoas stretch, and one of the most gentle, involves lying on the back on the floor. The person should make sure that his pelvic position is neutral, his scapulae are flush with the floor, and that his spine and head are in perfect alignment, forming a straight, smooth line. He should gently bring one knee up to his chest while extending the other leg along the floor, breathing deeply and evenly. The position should be held for several breaths before switching sides, and repeated several times.
For a deeper psoas stretch, the person can adopt a lunging position with one knee forward, forming a 90° angle, if possible, between the hip and the calf. He should extend the other leg behind him, kneeling slightly, and lower himself slowly into the stretch, which can be felt in the front of the hip. The person should keep his spine perfectly straight while performing this stretch, and not allow the knee of his forward leg to overhang the toes.