Stretching this little muscle can make knee and back pain go away

I suffer from lower back pain, and it throws away all my usual workouts. Sitting in my chair all that time takes its toll. I need more stretching in my routine, and you probably do too if a little hip or knee pain is holding you back. A few stretches in key areas, such as the psoas, can get you back into your groove.

The psoas is a deep hip flexor that connects to the spine and extends down to our femur, says Kristen Lettenberger, DPT, CSCS, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments. Its main function is to bring your knee to your chest.

The hip flexors, including the psoas, take a lot to put up with in and out of the gym. “When we sit, this muscle is put in a shortened position and can become tight if we spend a longer period of time in this position,” adds Winnie Yu, DPT, CPT, sports and orthopedic physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments.

Meet the experts: Kristen Lettenberger, DPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist and Winnie Yu, DPT, CPT, is a sports and orthopedic physical therapist with Bespoke Treatments in New York City.

TBH, it’s hard to find a downside to spending a few minutes stretching the psoas. Not only can a psoas stretch reduce lower back pain, but it can also improve knee pain, daily movements, posture, walking and running, sports performance in football and soccer, and possibly improve the stability and function of the pelvic floor muscles.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s not — here’s everything you need to know about the psoas and the most effective ways to stretch it from physical therapists.

What Is the Psoas — and What Causes Pain?

The psoas is a hip flexor that connects the spine to the femur, Lettenberger says. It essentially runs from the vertebrae of your lower back to the front of your hip and attaches to your thigh. It’s mostly out of sight, out of mind unless things get tight.

Your psoas kicks in when you bring your knee to your chest. (Think high knees, mountain climbers, deep squats, jumping, sprinting, and running. It tightens in sitting positions and shortens after prolonged sitting. So whether you spent eight hours in your office chair today, or you just got back from a run, it’s probably a good idea to make time for some psoas exercises.

Best Stretches For Psoas Pain

It only takes a little bit of time to make a big impact. The following five stretches are the most effective for releasing the psoas, according to Lettenberger.

Instructions: For a post-workout cooldown, complete 2-3 dynamic reps, continuously moving in and out of position and switching sides. For a warm-up before a workout, complete 5-10 static reps, then switch sides.

1. Bridge

Kristen Letenberger


  1. Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor with your knees bent and pointing toward the ceiling. Let the arms rest on the floor next to you.

  2. Engage your glutes to raise your hips toward the ceiling, elongating and stretching the front of your body.

  3. Lower the hips back to the floor with control. That’s 1 repetition. Complete two to three sets of 10-12 reps.

Pro Tip: Exhale as you push your hips toward the ceiling. “The exhale is really powerful for regulating and further stretching that nervous system,” says Lettenberger.

2. Half kneeling hip flexor

these are the five best psoas exercises

Kristen Letenberger


  1. Start standing with feet close together.

  2. Step right foot back, bend both knees to 90 degrees into a lunge and tuck right toes under. Left foot, right knee and right foot touch the ground.

  3. Squeeze the right gluteal muscle and drive the hip forward. (You should feel a good stretch in the front of the right leg and right in the hip flexor, says Lettenberger.) That’s 1 repetition.

Pro Tip: Inhale deeply and as you exhale, sink deeper into the stretch to release tension in front of the hip.

3. Standing Hip Power


  1. Start standing with feet hip-width apart.

  2. Push your pelvis under you, tightening your glutes so that you feel like you’re pushing your hips forward a little.

  3. Step back with the right leg to feel the stretch in the front of your hip. Hold the position for 30 seconds. That’s 1 repetition.

Pro Tip: You’re doing well if you feel most of the stretch in the front of the hip near the hip joint and slightly below, because that’s the psoas attachment site, Lettenberger says. You may also feel a stretch through the obliques.

4. Low dropout rate

psoas stretch

Kristen Letenberger


  1. Start standing with feet together.

  2. Step the left leg back and bend the right knee into a low lunge with the hands touching the floor.

  3. Lift your right arm up to the ceiling and twist your chest open. Hold for 15-20 seconds.

  4. Reverse the arm movement. That’s 1 repetition.

5. Half kneeling stretch with foot elevated

psoas stretch

Kristen Letenberger


  1. Begin kneeling on the floor with the right foot on an elevated surface behind you.

  2. Maintaining the position of the right leg, step forward with the left foot and plant it on the floor, placing the hands on the floor for balance if necessary.

  3. With an upright posture, squeeze the right gluteal muscle and drive the hip forward. That’s 1 repetition.

Psoas Stretch Benefits

  • Prevent low back pain. Because of its attachment to the lower back, opening the psoas through stretching will help reduce pain, Lettenberger says.

  • Help daily mobility. Regular stretching of the psoas will make you more comfortable sitting in your chair to work each day, or standing and moving around.

  • Reduce hip pain. Stretching the psoas is helpful “if you have pain in the front of your hip, especially if you’ve been sitting for a long time,” Lettenberger says.

  • Improving performance in sports. The psoas is especially beneficial in sports that require hip extension or vigorous kicking as basic movements such as football, soccer and running, Yu explains.

  • Increase power. Stretching your psoas is likely to give you more range of motion in the hips, says Lettenberger. You can jump higher, squat deeper and possibly sprint faster because you have more hip extension, Lettenberger adds. OK, I’m in!

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Stretching this little muscle can make knee and back pain go away

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