The psoas (so-az) muscle is one of the most important muscles of your entire core. Sitting all day like many of us do leads to tightening of the psoas muscle. In case you’re wondering exactly what the psoas muscle is it looks like this:
Clearly, you can see how this muscle, being connected to your lower spine and moving directly through your core can play a crucial role in lower back pain.
Typically, the issue most people have with their psoas muscle is that it is shortened from sitting all day and this can lead to the pelvic bone tilted forward, creating that hunched over look.
Personally, once I learned some techniques to stretch, release, and strengthen my psoas muscles I realized this is one of the best things you can do to counter lower back pain caused from sitting all day.
The initial focus should be to release pressure first by doing some self-massage with a couple lacrosse balls, we’ll get to that later though. You came here to find out what the best psoas stretch is, so let’s start with that.
How to Stretch Psoas Muscles
The main thing you need to do is stretch the psoas muscles. You only need to know a few main stretches to start seeing improvements in lower back pain. All of these stretches will stretch all of the hip flexor muscles as well but are great for reaching the psoas muscle. Here they are.
The Best Psoas Muscle Stretch
There are a few stretches you can do that will reach the psoas muscle, but in my opinion and experience, this is the ideal psoas stretch.
First, lay down on the ground with your chest down and bring your arms out to the side (directly 90 degrees from your body). You will leave one leg on the ground and will stretch the other leg to your opposite arm.
The picture above is what I’m referring to, now just to be clear I am not a flexible person so I have to cheat a bit. But hopefully you get the idea.
This stretch not only reaches the psoas muscle but stretches all of your hip flexor muscles. Again, it is great because it is doing the exact opposite of what you do all day when you’re sitting at your desk.
All day long your back and legs are bent at about 90 degrees when you’re sitting. For some people, this may be closer to about 135 degrees. Either way when we stand up and straighten out our body, even though we aren’t bent like we were all day we are still only at 180 degrees.
Doing stretches where you bend your legs and hips so that you exceed that 180-degree angle really helps to counter the negative effects of sitting all day.
Another Variation of This
Another stretch that works well that is very similar is to get down on all fours and then lift up one leg and extend it up basically as far back as you can go. Here is what I’m referring to.
Hip Flexor Stretch with a Foam Roller
This stretch not only stretches the hip flexor but puts pressure on the psoas muscle as well while you are stretching. As you see in the video below (the first stretch she shows) and also my picture below (hers is much better) you are placing a foam roller directly on your lower back, bringing one leg up to your chest while the other leg is straightened.
You may get enough of a stretch just from doing that alone, but if you raise your arm directly above your head on the floor then you will create even more of a stretch. The way you are creating opposing movements with each leg really gives you a good stretch and helps reach the psoas muscle.
Other Psoas Muscle Stretches
The 3 above that I spoke about are some of the main stretches you need to do. But just to give you a full arsenal of hip flexor stretches you can also add the 2 additional stretches from the video above.
The hip flexor lunge stretch is one of the most common stretches recommended for the psoas muscle. It is another good one to do.
You simply start in a lunge position and then extend your hips forward. This will move your back leg from 90 degrees to about 135 degrees and you will again feel a pull directly on your hip flexors.
The next stretch is shown in the video above as well and what you do is lay on the ground with your stomach down. Rest your forehead on one of your arms (wrists) and then with your other arm, grab your ankle and pull it towards your butt.
Last but not least is the prone press up. This is where you start by laying directly on your stomach and then lift up by placing your palms on the ground. Look upwards towards the ceiling and stretch your lower back. It is simple and effective.
Lacrosse Ball Massage
As I mentioned I think it is important to release pressure by massaging your muscles prior to stretching. Doing this helps with stiffness and makes stretching more effective.
I’ve tried every possible thing there is for self-massage and by far, lacrosse balls are the best thing you can use. The great thing is that you can find them for less than $10 (seriously, best investment ever).
You can use this to massage anywhere you feel tense but mainly applied directly to the lower back will apply a deep tissue massage, unlike no other self-massage you can get.
Psoas Muscle Trigger Points
You can also use them to put direct pressure on your psoas muscles. Simply lay on the floor and place them just inside of where your hip bones are. This will be slightly under your lower abs.
This video shows you exactly what you need to do:
Psoas Muscle Strengthening
After you consistently apply the methods above to relieve pain then you can start to strengthen your core muscles to further alleviate lower back pain.
I think it is a good idea to relieve pain before you focus on strengthening, however, as the last thing you want to do is cause an injury that will do the exact opposite of what you set out to do.
Trying to directly hit the psoas muscle isn’t going to work, and isolation exercises don’t really work anyways. The best thing to do is to focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscles at the same time. This is a more natural way of working out and has been shown to be far more effective.
Things you can do range from just simply walking more (which you can always do), to doing squats and deadlifts. Squats and deadlifts are the key core strengthening exercises you can do. Again, this needs to be done safely, though. Make sure to start slow and gradually increase your workouts if you doing squats and deadlifts, and look to find a quality workout program you can follow.
Applying the stretches listed above can help alleviate pain by directly reaching the psoas muscle, this is something we don’t tend to think about when looking to heal lower back pain but it is directly connected to your spine and essentially, your lower back.
Adding these a few times a week, or even daily should give you some overall improvement on lower back pain. What do you think about the stretches listed above? Do you currently do any of them? Did this article give you some new stretches you will be utilizing? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂