Dr. Mark J. Kirk &
Dr. James McNally
Great health & wellness for the whole family

Iliopsoas Muscle Strain



An iliopsoas muscle strain actually involves two muscles in the thigh, the psoas and the iliacus. To understand how they work, think of the roles a pilot and a co-pilot play in the navigation of an airplane. The psoas muscle acts like a pilot, determining the speed and direction of the thigh's movement, but gives some responsibility to the iliacus muscle, which acts like a co-pilot. As a team, the two muscles work as the chief thigh flexors, helping you raise your knees to your chest.

An iliopsoas muscle strain occurs when muscle fibers or tendons in either the psoas or the iliacus get damaged or torn, which can affect the way all the thigh muscles function. People who suffer from such a condition often complain about an achy pain in the inner part of their thigh. This pain can develop immediately or even up to a day after someone injures either muscle.

The name iliopsoas comes from combining the words psoas and iliacus, as the two muscles actually meet and share a common tendon, which attaches them to the femur (thighbone). For that reason, and because it's often difficult to tell whether an iliopsoas muscle strain has affected the psoas or the iliacus, chiropractors often refer to them simply as the iliopsoas.

Both muscles are very strong, so generally, those who participate in thigh-intensive sports like hockey and soccer are more susceptible to the condition. Related injuries, like groin strains, can also damage the iliopsoas, especially when the leg is in a vulnerable position.

Other factors that can contribute to an iliopsoas muscle strain include muscle imbalance, which forces one group of muscles to work too hard and fatigue more easily; muscle fatigue, which can occur under excessive stress; previous injuries, which can make the iliopsoas more susceptible if left untreated; and any joint misalignments or dysfunctions in the lumbar spine or pelvis, which can affect how the muscles in the leg function. In addition, quick or misjudged movements, like a slip or fall, can also cause the condition.

Iliopsoas muscle strains range in severity from mild, which only involve a slight tear, to severe, which can involve a large tear and possibly bleeding and swelling. In most cases, mild strains take 2 to 10 days to heal, moderate strains take anywhere from 10 days to 6 weeks to heal and more severe strains take 6 to 10 weeks to heal.

Chiropractic care is effective with most of these strains. Your chiropractor will perform an evaluation to determine what caused the strain and implement a plan of care and rehabilitation program to speed your recovery. With very severe tears, however, patients sometimes require medication and surgery. If so, your chiropractor can explain what this will involve and make a suitable referral