Updated: Feb 26, 2019
What is an “iliopsoas” and why is it so important for dancers?
By Rachel Sutter-Leve, PT, DPT
Psoas also known as the Iliopsoas
Ever heard of the iliopsoas muscle? Most performing artists have heard a lot about this infamous muscle, yet know very little about it. Growing up as a dancer, I had people tell me it was “tight”, “weak”, “short”, or my favorite “on vacation”. But I always wondered, what exactly is this muscle and why is it so important?!
The iliopsoas is the primary flexor of the hip when the leg is above 90 degrees. So that means all of those beautiful extensions you want are going to come from this muscle. The iliopsoas is also one of the muscles that helps align your hip within the socket, reducing the chance of impingement and discomfort at the front of your hip flexor. Have you ever experienced “popping” or “snapping” in your hip? While this type of sensation can be due to a number of things, a common culprit is muscle imbalance around the hip joint, and the iliopsoas is a very important part of this! When you use the psoas correctly, you can often eliminate the popping, snapping, and pain in the front of the hip that comes with a hip impingement.
So what should you do about it? Treating the iliopsoas needs to be multifaceted. Merely stretching your iliopsoas may provide temporary relief but likely will not be a long term solution. The good news is that with a personalized program of strengthening exercises combined with stretching exercises, some manual therapy, as well as technique modifications, this muscle can get stronger and help you improve your technique and reduce the risk of injury.