Anatomy Spotlight: Psoas

Gray430_Psoas_MajorPsoas (pronounced So-Az) is one of the most important muscles in our body. It is our primary hip flexor and one of our main core muscles. Psoas attaches to the Front side of the lumbar spine (think about that for a minute), weaves down through the pelvis and attaches to the lesser trochanter of the femur on the inside of the upper thigh. Contraction of the muscle pulls the hip into flexion and brings the knee toward the chest. If already in a tight position before active contraction, it will tug on the anterior lumbar spine and contribute to lower back pain. The psoas muscle shares a common attachment at the lesser trochanter with the iliacus muscle, which is an internal pelvic stabilizer and lines the inside of the pelvic bowl. This is why it is commonly referred to as “iliopsoas” as both muscles work independently AND together to create stability and movement.

Facts about psoas:

1) Even though the muscle connects to the lumbar spine, the muscle cannot be treated from the lower back because it attaches to the anterior lumbar spine. Psoas is treated by accessing the muscle through the abdomen, weaving between organs to work the muscle directly.

2) Like Filet? You’re actually eating a cow’s psoas. Because it’s not a load-bearing muscle, the meat is tender and lean, not tough and fatty.

3) Psoas is one of the muscles that is evolving as time goes on. What we call psoas is actually psoas major. It’s said that we once had a psoas minor but it has worked itself out via evolution due to our upright walking. While in cadaver lab in massage therapy school, one of our specimens actually HAD a psoas minor. We literally thought we hit the jackpot!


Having psoas treated is not for the faint of heart, but it is vital to keeping the back healthy and should be worked if lower back pain is present. If your therapist is not experienced in treating it, please save the psoas work for someone who is as it has to be accessed through the abdomen and abdominal organs. All of our therapists have advanced training in treating psoas and do so on a very regular basis.

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