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How to Stop Psoas Spasm?

I’m having some issues with my psoas for the last few days, particularly the right side. I spent most of the day sitting earlier this week and the next day it completely locked up. I have had psoas/hip flexor issues for a while, but not nearly as bad as this. I have been able to release and stretch the muscle which actually gave me complete relief as though nothing had ever happened, but after going to sleep it tightened up again. What can I do to release it and keep it from going back into spasm?

What I did: I read some articles and watched some videos, the only thing I hadn’t tried yet was laying face down with a lacrosse ball under the front of my hip and simulatenously bending my knee and extending the hip. This worked a bit, but then I got an idea which was to use a band to hold my leg up and keep my knee bent. Doing it like that plus squeezing and releasing my glute worked way better than anything I could have imagined, but it only provided relief until I went to bed.

I haven’t had psoas spasms, but mine have a tendency to “shut off” and whenever I visit the chiropractor they always test poorly and he has to “reactivate them”. To do this he pushes really hard on the activation point, which is easy to find and you can do to yourself. take a straight line from the navel to right outside the abdomen, then go down about 2-3 fingers and press down and in towards the spinal column. This always activates my psoas muscles and I do it before almost every workout.

I believe JL Holdsworth wrote an article or two on Elitefts about the techniques earlier this year. (search holdsworth douglas heel)

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Hi Chris,

In terms of stretches I think your on the right track but there are a few additional things I would try.

Make sure to stretch both sides.
Its important to make sure that your Psoas are relatively “balanced”. Having one Psoas tighter or stronger than the other can lead a tilting of the lumbar spine to the side of the dominant muscle. This can lead to uneven wearing of the discs resulting in inflammation and protective spasms. ( this is an issue I have had personally). Its also a good idea to stretch the other muscles in the hips and upper legs as weak Psoas can lead to overcompensation by other muscle groups.

It maybe also be the case that your left Psoas is the tight one and its causing contralateral lengthening and weakening of your right Psoas. So give your left Psoas a quick examination with a lacrosse ball, you will know if its tight.

Treat the underlying issues
In the long term I think you should try to determine whether your Psoas are tight or elongated, this should give you a better idea of how you should be stretching or strengthening your Psoas. You can find videos for this anywhere on youtube

Hope this was of some help



That’s the same spot I have been working on to try to release the psoas. I never heard of anyone having issues activating the psoas though, that sounds a bit odd to me. Isn’t it active whenever you sit or walk?

I read JL Holdsworth’s articles when they first came out, I checked them again to see if I had missed anything. Unfortunately he doesn’t give any specifics, it looks like the goal is to promote Douglas Heel’s certifications and seminars. But that sounds like the right type of thing to fix my issues.

I wish someone had told me this a couple weeks ago. I didn’t want to make my original post too long-winded, but I think that part of the problem is that I was doing a lot of myofascial release stuff on the left side recently. The vast majority of my hip flexor/psoas issues have been on the left side, but it was never unmanageable. Lately I have been stretching my adductors quite a bit to improve mobility for sumo deadlifts and when I started stretching them I felt my left hip flexors (can’t really say if psoas or the others) acting up and restricting movement so I used my theracane to do some myofascial release on them. Since the problem was on the left, 90% of my focus was on that side but I did a little bit on the right to even things out". Now the pain/tightness is pretty much all on the right. Just after starting this thread I went to loosen up my psoas and I started with the right side, I didn’t even bother with the left because everything went back to normal after releasing the right side. Anyway, I guess you are right and I need to release both sides regardless of where I feel pain/tightness at the moment.

On the brighter side of things, I had a lighter squat/deadlift workout planned today. I considered skipping it, but since I felt so much better I decided to see how things go. I got through it with no pain and no severe discomfort, and I feel even better afterwards. When I come out of the hole on squats it feels like my hip flexors don’t want to let go, overcoming my own muscle tension took more effort than actually lifting the weight (it was a little under 75% for 6 sets of 3) but the last few sets felt much better. On deadlifts I feel tight getting into my bottom position, I imagine a deadlift suit would feel similar, but no issues there. Unless I can find some sort of “miracle cure”, like maybe Douglas Heel’s techniques, I will just have to keep stretching and releasing my hip flexors on a regular basis.

Normally that’s the side that gives me trouble, but right now it’s the right side acting up - possibly because I neglected to work on it in the past. Left side doesn’t feel like anything right now.

Iliopsoas can be a real problem. I’ve had severe problems with mine for 15 years. Initial massive trigger points shortened them up to the point that I had spondylolisthesis at L5-S1 and severe back problems that have just snowballed every since. It can bend you right over and cripple up your life if it gets out of hand and can become a permanent self perpetuating condition that is not only painful and disruptive but can even get so bad that walking any distance is a non starter.

I offer the following suggestions with the usual disclaimers- advice only, not a medical professional, do at your own risk, what does a guy on the internet know anyways?, etc., etc.

Look up Dr. Stuart McGill’s psoas stretch. It’s quite effective Also there are a number of lying off a table, bench or bed stretches that can hit it pretty good. Google image search shows quite a few. Experiment but be careful not to overstretch as it can take weeks to recover (at least in my experience). Frequent light stretching throughout the day is better than one intense session. Particularly after sitting for long periods.

What you are referring to as activating the psoas is direct trigger point work. Look up psoas trigger points and read up on it. Google Books search “psoas trigger points”- Travell and Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction is the bible on trigger points. Volume 2 lower body should be one of the top results. Also The Trigger point Therapy book by Clair Davies has condensed practical application based on Travell and Simons. They will show you what you are dealing with and where to work, how hold the hands, etc…

Self work is done with doubled up hands back to back to reinforce the fingers but moving up and down the muscle belly. It is done while lying flat with legs down and then with problem side knee bent.
For iliacus work dropping bent knee out to the side while working closer inside the hip bone.
When you get a very painful spot that’s a trigger point. A hold for 30 seconds or so or until it “releases”- pain will subside and muscle will relax slightly. Then carefully stretch the muscle.
For active release hold the trigger point while flexing the knee towards the abdomen then slowly straightening the leg out.
Both sides should be worked. Even the side that doesn’t seem to hurt can have latent trigger points that will hurt when worked on and will cause dysfunction if left untreated.

For most people regular self work is enough to keep this in check. Be careful. Psoas pain and trigger point work can be extremely painful.
Professional massage therapists are trained to do this. Ask first as some are better trained and prepared than others at psoas work.

Good Luck

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90/90 Position for relief of spasms.

Maybe Roll Adductor. Also be sure to get after the VMO(i like lacrosse ball for VMO). All that stuff is connected.

Hip Stretch

Clamshell to engage glutes and take pressure off

Another good one

Stretch the other end too

No situps!

If you are pulled forward by your Psoas, the lats can get super tight too. Maybe stretch/roll them.

Make sure to keep the shins vertical on Sumo deads! Don’t let the knees come in. Maybe your stance is just a little too wide?

Don’t sleep in the Fetal Position. If you lay on your side, make sure you don’t “slump over.” Maintain good posture, even in that position.

Actively think about staying out of Anterior Pelvic Tilt at all times.

Is this the lunge stretch with the arm up and lateral flexion? I have been doing that, it helps a bit.

I have been having minor issues with my hip flexors for years, I haven’t had any serious hip flexor-related back pain as long as I have been lifting seriously (except for a possible herniated disc close to 2 years ago, totally healed) until the other day. It sounds like I have no choice but to keep working at it. I will look up Travell and Simons. Thanks.

I released my right lat yesterday at work just by leaning against a wall and putting my fist in between, it was tight as hell and started twitching. The other one seems OK. I don’t do any direct ab work, it seems that squatting and deadlifting does the job for me. I was doing McGill’s Big 3 for a while until it started to seem pointless.

My deadlift stance is not very wide, shins basically centered at the rings. I have no power with a wide stance.

Sleeping seems like the worst thing, last night I my back and hip flexors felt totally fine until I woke up in the middle of the night totally cramped up. Getting up after sitting for a while isnt fun wither. Other than stretching and myofascial release, just moving around seems to help. Yesterday I did an upper body workout, (floor press, dips, chin ups, some shoulder nonsense), I felt crippled at the beginning but I felt great at the end.

I’m stuck in anterior pelvic tilt right now. When I stand up it takes effort just to get it to neutral, I couldn’t posteriorly tilt my pelvis if I tried. That seems to be the main symptom during the day, outside of lifting. Anyway, I’m better than two days ago so there is some progress.