The Mighty Iliopsoas (AKA hip flexors!)

by | Nov 1, 2018 | Biomechanics

The Mighty Iliopsoas*


So how many times have you been told your hip flexors are tight by one person or another???

It really isn’t that simple….unfortunately…..

Look how beautifully they weave from the spine and the diaphragm, across the ribs, through the abdomen, the pelvis, and then into the hip, groin and thigh. Affects everything, and can be affected by everything from the breath, to the bowels, the pelvis, the foot, and everything in between. Cheeky little thing! Always involved but not necessarily ever the “answer”. Stretching “tight” hip flexors often told that this is your issue from prolonged sitting for example is not often what you need. In fact, look at all of the things that can affect it, or affected by it……Phenomenal!

Sitting for prolonged periods will compress and compromise the lumbar spine, the ribs and diaphragm, shortening the space for them to move freely, and setting up a shortened chain reaction of muscles and fascia, which over time is quite hard to alter. Pelvic and abdominal viscera are “squashed” into a smaller cavity with less mobility and freedom to move as needed. The iliopsoas group are inadvertently altered but not necessarily “tight”.

As osteopaths we will look at the body as a whole, and get to the crux of the issue from the outside in. By getting to the cause, we affect the symptoms.

When we walk, we require a loading effect through the iliopsoas which loads like a coil to allow it to contract purposely and as it should. This group of muscles have a different job, and effort requirement throughout the gait cycle. We need them to load and then explode correctly and efficiently in order for everything else to do the same. For example, if the iliopsoas muscles are too short, they will produce a rotational force through the hips which counteracts that of the glute muscles (main muscles in the buttocks). This means that we do not allow the glutes to load up and then explode and activate properly and effectively. And of course these issues can be caused from the ground upwards, if we are not loading correctly through the foot and ankle this will place the wrong force through the pelvis, iliopsoas, glutes…. And also from above.

The diaphragm is also super important. This provides a tension from above which will preload the iliopsoas group effectively too. Don’t you just love how everything is connected!!??!! So if we have any postural compensation which will restrict how beautifully we can use our ribs and diaphragm to move whilst we breathe and try to expand our rib cage, then this in itself can affect the iliopsoas.

So just remember this when you are sat hunched over a phone, computer, or steering wheel for hours on end….when you spend hours on a road bike without an equal amount of time spent looking upwards, opening up, standing, walking, running…  There are a good many issues contributing to your back pain, hip pain, “hip flexor pain” and it may not just be coming from one place. Come and see us and get a full biomechanical assessment. We can help get you out of pain, but also moving, breathing, training better.