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Information from Dorothy

Posted by Dorothy on 1/27/05 at 15:19 (168050)

Hello all ~

Sometime last year, I mentioned my growing interest in the psoas (iliopsoas muscle group) muscles. I recently had another bout of back troubles that came and, happily, went within a few days. While agonizing, I also was analyzing what was going on. I have been increasingly convinced that the psoas are, at least in part, contributing to my back problems. So what does that have to do with you, you might well ask! Well, here is what caught my attention while doing some reading recently: the psoas also contribute to pain down the leg, Achilles, heel, and feet. I'm not suggesting that this is THE answer for me or anyone, but it might be a contributing factor for us to consider. So, I'm going to give a book reference and a quote or two from it and you can follow up as you see fit:
The book is (I can't underline or italicize here, hence the erroneous quotation marks):
'Goodbye to Bad Backs' by Judith Scott (Elysian Editions, Princeton Book Company, Publishers; copyright 1988, 2002)
p. 5: 'The most important function of the psoas is to balance and maintain the body parts in the upright positon against the force of gravity….. when a segment of the body is out of balance or misaligned and remains that way for a prolonged period of time, the muscles controlling that aspect of posture will contract under the strain and become short and tight. Conversely, the muscle groups working in opposition to the tightened muscles will compensate by stretching. Muscles under prolonged stretch become weak and lose their tone…..When the psoas muscle group is misaligned or off balance, the muscles in the lower back become short and tight and the abdominal muscles in the front of the torso become stretched and lose their tone. Problems then arise when we try to initiate or sustain movement of those muscles that are already in a state of contraction….. A contracted psoas can have far-ranging effects on the body; by throwing the body out of alignment, it can cause problems in the hips, knees, and eventually the upper back, neck, feet, and ankles….(PP) The direct or indirect muscular imbalances that a shortened psoas can affect are many. According to Dr. Michele's theory, it can be the hidden culprit in hip dislocation of a newborn; a toddler's difficulty in learning to walk; 'growing pains' in adolescence; back pain in adults; or FOOT PROBLEMS THROUGHOUT LIFE. (I added caps here.) A malfunctioning psoas muscle can also aggravate such conditions as (several are named here)…and VARICOSE VEINS…..'

My reading thus far leads me to believe that there is much in here that applies to not only the back but the whole magilla of problems that so many of us are dealing with here.
So, I recommend this book to you and hope that it helps someone, including me!

Best wishes ~

Re: Information from Dorothy

Julie on 1/27/05 at 15:30 (168052)

This is absolutely right, Dorothy. Psoas is a little understood but hugely important muscle. I've had students whose main difficulty with forward bending movements came not from tight hamstrings, but from tight iliopsoas. This sounds like a very good resource, and I'll look into it. Thanks for posting about it.

Re: Information from Dorothy

Julie on 1/28/05 at 05:54 (168080)

For those who are interested, there are several copies of Judith Scott's book at abebooks.com., including some ex-library copies at under $5. I've just ordered one. Here's a link:


Re: Information from Dorothy

Rachael T. on 1/28/05 at 13:43 (168099)

So, Dorothy, or Julie or whomever knows.....what exercise do you do for the iliopsoas? I wonder if that is also a culprit now in my present back pain...yes, no foot pain for a couple of mos. & now, this backpain. I await your reply. Thanks!

Re: Iliopsoas

Julie on 1/28/05 at 14:00 (168100)

Rachael, I would gladly describe some exercises for iliopsoas for you, but I'm not supposed to be sitting at the computer for long periods. Here is a link to a few:


Be careful with the lunge exercises, which as you will see also stretch the calf muscles and achilles strongly, probably too strongly if your PF is still active. The fourth one, on the bench, is probably the safest.

Do some research if you're interested. Google on Iliopsoas: you'll find lots.

Re: Information from Dorothy

Dorothy on 1/28/05 at 14:02 (168101)

Rachel T -
I hope you'll forgive this response but, honestly, it's the best one I can give right now - I will just re-refer you to the book title I posted recently (and that Julie gave some resource info. on today).
In addition, you can Google psoas (or iliopsoas but they are most commonly referred to as 'psoas') and I think some sites do show some exercises (not sure about that). In the amount of time it would take me to put together the exercises, type them out, etc. here, you could have the book ordered and in your hands! (almost) and have a much better presentation than I can provide at this time. I thought that giving that previous post provided enough for anyone interested to pursue the subject and that would be better info. than I could try to reproduce. I will say that it is seeming to me that one has to address this muscle group fairly specifically, in context of an overall conditioning program (yoga, Pilates, etc.)and I want to emphasize that I, too, am just learning and discovering. So - buy the book? or locate similar resources? - and join me in this process of discovery, eh? I'm very sorry to hear that you are having back pain, Rachel; have you had this before? Let's hope in the strongest ways that we can all mend and get stronger...

Re: Information from Dorothy

Rachael T. on 1/29/05 at 12:49 (168132)

Yes, I've had backpain before - sciatica attack after a fall from a colt I was training about 20 yrs. ago - & I get an attack of backpain every once in a while (last one this bad was 1998). I do regularly Swiss ball exercises...& I think that besides stall mucking on cold days - & strenous exercise, I just 'flaired' it up again. Usually a trip or 2 to the chiro w/ stretching heals me - Since I am not at home (I am wintering in Fla.) & I felt the drive down here did my back in - I did see a chiro here & am going to seehim again on Mon. I am hopeful he helps me as my home chiro does. No, it is not yet sciatica, but it is the same lower back pain that I've had in the past....this time it is probably a 'medium' attack..not as bad as it was initially 20 yrs. ago & not as good as some 'mild' attacks that maybe lasted a few days w/ chiro treatment. I am hopeful that our warmer temps (70's) are due next wk. & I shall get some swim time in - & that will aid my healing as well. Sometimes, I think I do too much in the way of stretching & strenuous outdoor work, & that does me in....anyway, I am hopeful that this will end soon - & it isn't stoppng me from riding my bike to the lib. for emails & heelspurs.com visits!! As for my feet, of late, they are great....but I did read in a sport mag. that Jose' O(how do you spell his name?) the pro golfer -- his dr. states that his long attack of pf was referred pain from his back. (He lost 2 seasons on pro golf tour.) That is why I figured it was maybe something that 'went together' - pf & back pain. As for that colt who dumped me, well, he went onto be a GREAT horse for me - winning lots & is now retired; as am I! I only ride now for pleasure & keep 2 horses...no more 20 head of horses to train for competitions! And, now, we winter in Fla. So, I should heal in this sunshine!!! Wishing you well!

Re: Information from Dorothy

Ed Davis, DPM on 2/02/05 at 21:49 (168357)

A tight iliopsoas muscle can pull forward on the lower vertebrae, accentuating the lumbar curve, straining the low back. One reason for doing sit ups with bent knees and hips is that when doing sit ups with straight hips it is actually the iliopsoas muscle that pulls the body (torso) upward the first approx. 15 to 20 degrees. When keeping the knees and hips flexed, it is the abdominals that are doing the work.

PS I always feel handicapped by not having sufficient illustrations to try to show issues of body mechanics. Does anyone know of any good sources of illustrations?

Re: Information from Dorothy

Julie on 2/03/05 at 02:06 (168366)

Ed, Dorothy

Here are a few for starters:


Note, for anyone interested in iliopsoas. There are three muscles involved: psoas major and minor, and iliacus. Together they are known as the hip flexors, and are usually referred to by this name.

Re: Information from Dorothy

Rachael T. on 2/03/05 at 11:57 (168394)

If one is doing sit ups on the Swiss exercise ball - is that NOT a good way? Pls advise - trying to keep that ilio muscle healthy & not restrain it....I did note that situps on the ball sort of re-strain it - thus, I ask? Thanks!

Re: Information from Dorothy

Dorothy on 2/03/05 at 14:01 (168410)

Well, Rachel T., please be aware that I am a novice in psoas-land (and a stranger in paradise, too) so I do not feel qualified to answer your question.
As Dr. Ed has said before, we need a PT on this website - but I would add that we need several PTs on this website because PTs are all over the place as far as knowledge, philosophy, training, etc. Some are marvels and brilliant; others - not so much.
It does seem to me that the answer to your question also lies in your question; you said, 'I did note that situps on the ball sort of re-strain it .... ' so maybe this is a good instance for the old 'listen to your body' advice.
I wish I could be of more help. I'm learning, too....

I think I'm coming down with something - all the signs, plus a really, truly disgusting nose. I'll try to come up with some good information for you but it might not be right away....

Re: Information from Dorothy

Julie on 2/03/05 at 15:29 (168421)


Sit-ups on the exercise ball strengthen your core muscles: the abdominals and paraspinals. They won't do a thing for iliopsoas. But if you have a ball, and an instruction manual, you'll find exercises to stretch iliopsoas (which may be called, as I mentioned in another post today, the hip flexors).

And as Dorothy has said, listen to your body. Always.