READ THIS: What Does it Mean When You Hurt in Back, at the Waist, to One Side?

Uncovering the Hidden Culprit: The Turned Sacrum and its Role in Psoas Muscle Pain


In freeing tight psoas muscles, it is essential to check for a commonly missed underlying cause: a turned sacrum. 

Often referred to as sacroiliitis, sacroiliac pain syndrome, sprained S-I joint, or sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a turned sacrum can be the root cause of psoas pain that therapeutic efforts miss. By correcting a turned sacrum through clinical somatic education, not only can psoas pain be relieved, but a myriad of related symptoms can also be relieved, as a welcomed effect.

Identifying Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction:

It is vital to recognize the symptoms associated with sacro-iliac joint dysfunction. If you experience any of the following indicators, click the link below the video to save time and gain valuable insights.

  • pain across your low back at the waist
  • pain along the top border (iliac crest) of your pelvis 
  • deep hip joint pain
  • pain in the bladder or genital area 
  • a feeling like a tight wire at your low back
  • popping at your low back
  • a combination of low back and groin pain

Mechanical adjustments are of limited effectiveness for either psoas muscle pain or a twisted sacrum. Clinical somatic education brings faster and more lasting relief.

To determine whether you have a twisted sacrum, read and follow the instructions in this entry on S-I joint dysfunction

If the entry seems to describe you, get started with the regimen for that condition by entering your name and email address at the bottom of that entry. You will receive a "quick response" email message with free access to the first part of the program.

* The sacrum is the central bone of the pelvis, running from the waistline in back to the tailbone.

For Psoas Muscle Groin Pain: Better Exercises to Restore Comfort and Free Movement

About Stretches | Using Pandiculation Exercises Instead, for Lasting Relief from Tight Psoas Muscle Pain

plus, When Your Low Back, Hurts, Too

Lawrence Gold 

Hanna Somatic Educator ®  

certified 1992


Is your condition is what you think it is?



When psoas muscles function properly, the change of pelvic position (back) decreases the low-back curve and allows the spine and abdomen to fall back. The bulging belly settles back in, giving the appearance of strong abdominal muscles and the feel of a strong (i.e., effortlessly supportive) core. But it's not strength that's being felt; It's the feeling of a different trunk shape.

Abdominal Strengthening Exercises?

You can't correct a bulging belly or tight muscles by strengthening or stretching. Here's why: Neither abdominal strengthening nor psoas stretching exercises efficiently changes muscle/movement memory; muscle/movement memory determines muscle tone and the shape to which you return after you have stretched -- whether in hours or in days. You keep returning to that tension, posture and shape. To get a lasting change, you need to change muscle-movement memory, as presented here.


The Relationship of Psoas, Abdominal Muscles and Back Pain

The psoas muscles and the abdominal muscles are opposing pairs (agonist and antagonist) as well as synergists (mutual helpers). Closely coordinated interaction between the two is healthy; poor coordination between the two creates problems.

The psoas muscles lie behind the abdominal contents, from the level of your diaphragm to your inner thighs at the groin (lesser trochanters); the abdominal muscles lie in front of the abdominal contents, from the lower borders of the ribs (with the rectus muscles as high as the nipples) to the pubic bone.

Here's how they interact.


(opposition between muscles):

  • When standing, contracted iliopsoas muscles (whose tendons ride over the pubic crests) push the pubic bone backward; the abdominal muscles pull the pubic bone forward. Co-contraction creates abdominal compression and disturbed function of the internal organs.
  • The psoas minor muscles pull the lumbar spine forward; the abdominal muscles push the lumbar spine back (via pressure on abdominal contents and change of pelvic tilt).


(cooperation among muscles):

  • In walking, the iliopsoas muscles of one side move the leg forward, and the abdominals bring the same-side hip and pubis forward. (discussed on more detail, below)
  • The iliacus muscles, which feed into the quadratus lumborum muscles, which feed into the intercostal (rib) muscles. All these muscles move the trunk in the twisting/untwisting movements of walking.
  • The psoas major muscles pull the fronts of attached vertebrae (at the level of the diaphragm), down and back; the abdominals push the same area back.
  • One-sided contraction of the psoas muscles twists the torso and causes a sidebend toward the side of contraction (as if ducking to one side and looking over ones raised shoulder) -- it also retracts (pulls in) the leg toward the waist from within; abdominal muscles assist the shortening movement by pulling the hip (iliac crest) into the waist (part of being short-waisted).

Pain at the Waist or Back


If you have pain across the lower back at the waistline level, a feeling like a tight wire in your back, pain along your pelvic rim, burning bladder, genital area or groin (and no infection), and burning or numbness down the front or side of your thigh ("I-T band"), those are symptoms of a twisted sacrum. You can't free a tight psoas as long as your sacrum is twisted.

Please read this entry to learn if it describes your condition.

Releasing your psoas muscles is actually as easy as learning movements. The self-renewal program, Free Your Psoas, guides you step-by-step and keeps track of everything, for you. Follow the program lesson-to-lesson and you'll be fine. I guide you at an easy pace.

MENTORING AVAILABLE: If you're concerned about doing the exercises correctly, know that most people do just fine -- and if you need mentoring, you can get it, here.

Seemingly Unrelated Symptoms Of Psoas Muscle Trouble

Exercises to flatten the belly (e.g., crunches) cause the abdominal muscles to overpower psoas and spinal extensor muscles that are already too tight. Co-contraction results, in which abdominal organs are sandwiched between tight muscles, front and back, which impairs their functioning (e.g., digestive/eliminative problems)

High abdominal muscle tone from abdominal crunches drags the front of the ribs down and causes a head-forward position. Results: (1) impaired breathing, (2) compressed abdominal contents with impaired circulation, (3) sluggish lumbar plexus function (4) chronic constipation (from sluggish lumbar plexus function), (5) poor postural alignment, (6) poor support; gravity then drags posture down, (7) muscular involvement (at the back of the body) to counteract what is, in effect, a movement toward collapse. This muscular effort (a) taxes the body's vital resources, (b) introduces strain in the involved musculature (e.g., the extensors of the back), and (c) sets the stage for back pain and back injury.

From the foregoing description, it's obvious that "inconvenient" consequences result from abdominal exercises -- as popular as those exercises are for the appearance of fitness. It's better to simply to balance the interaction of the psoas and abdominal muscles.

The musculature and connective tissue of the legs, which connect the legs with the pelvis and torso, largely determine the pelvic orientation (postural position), and thus the spinal curves. If the feet are not in the same vertical plane as the hip joints, but are somewhat behind the hip joints(swayback), or more ahead of them (the stooped posture of "old age"), the strain tilts the pelvis -- and excessive lordosis or kyphosis follows (depending on whether the person has a swayback or a stoop). This postural effect involves the postural reflexes of standing balance, reflexes that involve the abdominal musculature. If the psoas muscles are tighter on one side than the other (pain on one side), abdominal muscles are tighter on one side than the other, and hip height asymmetry results, contributing to the appearance of unequal leg length.

Where movement, abdominal organ function, and freedom from back pain are concerned, proper support from the legs is as important as the free, reciprocal interplay of the psoas and abdominal muscles.

Psoas Health

When the psoas and the abdominal muscles counterbalance each other responsively, the psoas muscles contract and relax, shorten and lengthen appropriately in movement. The lumbar curve, rather than increasing, decreases; the back flattens and the abdominal contents move back into the abdominal cavity, where they are supported instead of hanging forward. Stride lengthens, the whole trunk elongates, and you stand up straight.


Now you know what's behind psoas muscle groin pain and related (some unexpected) symptoms, what causes it, what keeps it in place, and what you can do to end it: relevant pandiculation actions that restore sound movement (muscle) memory.

Tight psoas muscles contribute to hip joint pain, internal hip bone pain, sitting fatigue and postural changes that include a back-arched, big-belly posture, a deeper groin fold, shortened stride length, and the inability to stand fully erect.

When one side of the psoas is tight and short without symptoms of a twisted sacrum, the tension comes from movement (muscle) memory.

When symptoms of a twisted sacrum are present, the psoas muscles can't be freed directly; instead the sacrum must be restored to its normal movement and position by a program designed for that purpose. Then, the psoas muscles come free.


How Long Does it Take for Psoas Muscle pain to Disappear Permanently?

~ usually, a few weeks practice

The self-renovation program, Free Your Psoas, is designed for people new to somatics. 

Specific action patterns correct movement (muscle) memory to extinguish psoas muscle groin pain and other symptoms. You'll move better and feel fine, again, fit for all forms of exercise and activity. 

All that's left, now, is the "doing". Start Free Your Psoas for free, for two weeks. You will probably feel improvements within the first two-to-three days, and to some degree, within the first hour, of practice of the action patterns of that program -- guaranteed.

The Institute for Somatic Study and Development

S.E. 64th Avenue, Milwaukie, OR  97222

Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E 

Telephone 505 819-0858 | TERMS OF USE | PRIVACY POLICY 



Pain may show up as psoas muscle groin pain (psoas tendinitis or iliopsoas bursitis), pelvic pain on the inside of the pelvis on one side, a deep bellyache near the breathing diaphragm, or other symptoms discussed at the end of this piece. Tight psoas muscles also cause pressure and pain in the front of the hip joint, a condition that may lead to a torn labrum, if not handled.  Iliopsoas syndrome is a combination of such symptoms.

Sharp pain at the low back, to one side, suggests a turned sacrum

INJURY:  The injury may be a sports injury, a cut foot, a car accident, or a sprained ankle. It's the pain of the injury and change of movement (guarding) that causes the psoas muscle to tighten, not the injury, itself.  New movement ("muscle") memory starts to form with the pain of injury and becomes habitual over the healing period.

HABITUAL POSTURE:  Sitting for long periods perched forward on the edge of a chair, tense at a high level of concentration (as in computer work), forms a new "posture memory" in muscles of sitting, which include the psoas muscles.

Once a new posture-or-movement memory has formed, the only way it can be changed efficiently is by retraining control of the involved muscles. Manipulation, massage, or adjustments are very inefficient ways of changing movement-or-postural memory.

How do we know? Look at the results of those kinds of therapy. Results are telling.


Generally, it's an injury anywhere in the leg or hip that makes us want to take the weight off.  The alteration of movement pattern that continues during the healing period forms a new movement memory ("muscle memory"). Sometimes, it's habitual choice of posture that causes the change.

Do You Need to Stretch Your Psoas Muscles to Eliminate Pain?

The informed answer is, "No, it's not necessary ~~ nor is it effective." Muscle/movement memory rules, and it changes most easily with pandiculation.  (See, below, on pandiculation.)




Iliopsoas Bursitis Syndrome

Iliopsoas bursitis is a symptom of tight iliopsoas muscles; it isn't a "disease" in its own right. Allow me to explain.

First: what is a bursa? A bursa is a fluid-filled sac or pouch that acts as a pulley or lubricated pad where a muscle tendon bends around it on its way to attachment to a bone.

When a muscle is tight, its tendon

is tight; when a tendon is tight, it presses like a strap across any bursa it crosses.  The pressure irritates the bursa.  Diagnosis: bursitis.  Iliopsoas bursitis isn't a disease; it's the sign of a muscle conditioning problem.

Psoas Stretches (and 

Strengthening) : "Old School"

Why do psoas muscles seem to need stretching? The answer is, they keep tightening and shortening. Muscle/movement memory keeps them tight. So the answer isn't stretching, but correcting muscle/movement memory.

How do you correct muscle/movement memory? the same way as you learned to do any new movement, to begin with: practice the movements.  Excessive tension relaxes and comfort returns.

The psoas muscles cause specific movements. Exercises to correct muscle/movement memory involve those movements. The result? normal, easy, comfortable movement.

So, the answer to, "Is it necessary to stretch your psoas muscles?" is, "No, it's not necessary."

Summary on Stretching:

1. "Muscle/movement-memory" runs the show. Stretching creates only the memory of being stretched, and not the memory of movement. Stretching doesn't put you together; it takes you apart. Stretching doesn't improve movement coordination or the ability to relax.   They key is muscle/movement memory, which gets the result more easily than stretching -- and it lasts.

2.  In stretches, tight muscles remain passive, while other muscles force the stretch. Stretching doesn't improve control; it completely misses the target. The direct approach is to retrain muscle/movement memory. You do that by practicing natural patterns of movement -- functional movements, such of those of efficient walking -- controlled by the psoas muscles. As you gain control, pain fades out and easy movement returns.

3.  The common psoas muscle stretch (the "lunge", shown), done standing or kneeling, triggers balance reflexes based on your old muscle/movement memory, which interferes with learning new muscle/movement memory.

The "lunge" stretch typically causes the back to arch. Tightening the abdominal muscles doesn't adequately help to prevent the back from arching, and, in any case, sets up an unnatural tension pattern among those muscles.

4. In stretching, other muscles (such as the hip joint flexors) intercept the stretch. Stretches never reach the psoas muscles. 

Muscle/movement memory changes as you learn movements by feel. That makes it natural, not something you have to remember to do. Unless you do a movement that uses your psoas muscles, they stay relaxed.

Retraining muscle/movement memory is easier, works faster,

and feels better than stretching. 

Retraining muscle/movement memory ends psoas muscle pain.

Iliopsoas Bursitis Syndrome 

Iliopsoas bursitis is a symptom of tight iliopsoas muscles; bursitis isn't a "disease" in its own right. Allow me to explain.

First: what is a bursa? A bursa is a fluid-filled sac or pouch that acts as a pulley or lubricated pad where a muscle tendon bends around it on its way to attachment to a bone.

When a muscle is tight, its tendon is tight; when a tendon is tight, it presses like a strap across any bursa it crosses. The pressure irritates the bursa. Diagnosis: bursitis. Iliopsoas bursitis isn't a disease; it's the sign of a muscle conditioning problem.


What this statement means is that movement forward starts in the trunk (as a slight swaying forward). That slight swaying forward starts as a shifting of weight onto one foot and a subtle lifting of the toes and/or front of that foot, which decreases support, so that you slightly sway forward. When you have swayed far enough forward, you spontaneously bring your other leg forward to catch your forward weight (knee movement forward initiated by the psoas). Your leg comes forward, your foot comes down and supports your weight as it comes forward; then your other leg comes forward. The movement is:  trunk, foot, hip, knee, foot, in a cycle.  Try that.

A casual interpretation of this description might be that the psoas initiates hip flexion by bringing the thigh forward. It's not quite as simple as that.

By its location, the psoas is also a rotator of the thigh. It passes down and forward from the lumbar spine, over the pubic crest, before its tendon passes posteriorly (back) to its insertion at the lesser trochanter of the thigh. Shortening of the psoas pulls upon that tendon, which pulls the medial aspect of the thigh forward, inducing rotation, knee outward.

In healthy functioning, two actions regulate that tendency to knee-outward turning: (1) the same side of the pelvis rotates forward by action involving the iliacus muscle, the internal oblique (which is functionally continuous with the iliacus by its common insertion at the iliac crest) and the external oblique of the other side and (2) the gluteus minimus, which passes backward from below the iliac crest to the greater trochanter, assists the psoas in bringing the thigh forward, while aligning thigh rotation so the leg (optimally) swings directly in the line of travel (not commonly seen, but then idiosyncratic muscular tensions and inefficient movement are more common than well-organized movement -- so common that they are taken as "normal"). The glutei minimi are internal rotators, as well as flexors, of the thigh at the hip joint. They function synergistically with the psoas.

This synergy causes forward movement of the thigh, aided by the forward movement of the same side of the pelvis. The movement functionally originates from the somatic center, through which the psoas passes on its way to the lumbar spine. Thus, Dr. Rolf's observation of the role of the psoas in initiating walking is explained.

Interestingly, the abdominals aid walking by assisting the pelvic rotational movement described, by means of their attachments along the anterior (front) border of the pelvis. Thus, the interplay of psoas and abdominals is explained.

A final interesting note brings the center (psoas) into relation with the periphery (feet). In healthy, well-integrated walking, the feet assist the psoas and glutei minimi in bringing the thigh forward. The phenomenon is known as "spring in the step."

Here's the description: When the thigh is farthest back, in walking, the ankle is most dorsi-flexed. That means that the calf muscles and hip flexors are at their fullest stretch and primed by stretch receptors, in those muscles, to contract. This is what happens in well-integrated walking: assisted by the stretch reflex, the plantar flexors of the feet put spring in the step, which assists the flexors of the hip joints in bringing the thigh forward.

Here's what makes it particularly interesting: when the plantar flexors fail to respond in a lively fashion, ones feet lack spring and the burden of bringing the thigh forward falls heavily upon the psoas and other hip joint flexors, which become conditioned to maintain a heightened state of tension and readiness to contract, and there we are: tight psoas and back pain. Note that ineffective dorsi-flexors of the feet (lifters of the fronts of the feet) lead to tripping over ones feet, when walking; to avoid tripping over ones own feet, the hip flexors must compensate by lifting the knee higher, leading to a similar problem. The answer to this problem, by the way, is not usually to strengthen the muscles of the shin (dorsiflexors), but to free the muscles of the calf, which are usually too tight, commonly due to previous injury to a foot or ankle or habitual "swayback" (weight swayed too far forward).

Thus, it appears that the responsibility for problems with the psoas falls (in part, if not largely) upon the feet. No complete resolution of psoas problems should be expected without proper functioning of the lower legs and feet.

IMPORTANT:  Check your symptoms against those described in this article to ascertain that your problem is actually a psoas muscle problem, before ordering the program.

Look in this article for links to the self-renovation program, Free Your Psoas, to get you to feel right, again.

A summary of points from this article appears, here:

Psoas Muscle Pain: Nine Questions and Answers.

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