Structurally, your psoas muscles are the deepest muscles in your core. They attach from your 12th thoracic vertebrae to your 5th lumbar vertebrae through your pelvis and then finally attach to your femurs. In fact, they are the only muscles that connect your spine to your legs.
Your psoas muscles allow you to bend your hips and legs toward your chest. For example, when you are going upstairs, they also help to move your leg forward when you walk or run. These same muscles flex your trunk forward when you bend over to pick up something from the floor. They also stabilize your trunk and spine during movement and sitting.
The psoas muscles support your internal organs and work like hydraulic pumps, allowing blood and lymph to be pushed in and out of your cells. They are vital not only to your structural well-being but also to your psychological well-being because of their connection to your breath.
These connections between the psoas muscle and the diaphragm literally connect your ability to walk and breathe and also how you respond to fear and excitement. When you are startled or under stress, your psoas contracts. In other words, your psoas has a direct influence on your fight-or-flight response!
A tight Psoas can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Lower back pain, the most common symptom, although this can be symptomatic of many conditions
- Pain in the lumbosacral region (the border between the lower part of the spine and the buttocks that can radiate up to lumbar vertebrae or down to the sacrum) when sitting or particularly when changing positions arising from sitting to standing
- Difficulty/pain when trying to stand in a fully upright posture
- Pain in the buttocks
- Radiation of pain down the leg
- Groin pain
- Pelvic pain
- Limping or shuffling stride when walking
- Difficulty in breathing
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Reduced immune system
When you have a tight (or short) psoas muscle, you may experience pain in your lower back or in your hips, especially when lifting your legs. This is caused by the muscle compressing the discs in the lumbar region of your back. Stretching your muscles and releasing the tension on the psoas is the best way to prevent this from happening.