In my last post, I identified and located the quadratus lomborum (QL) and psoas major muscles, discussed why and how we can develop shortened or imbalanced psoas and practiced a few movements that can assist in countering its shortened length.
Years ago, I went to a massage therapist and shared with him my symptoms of persistent low-back discomfort. After his initial assessment, he recommended a psoas massage, which I had never heard of before and, with hesitation, agreed. It was quite painful and he performed the release with me in a number of different positions, from laying on my back to curled up in child’s pose. Once the massage was complete my back soreness disappeared and it left me bewildered. Remember the QL and psoas share the same attachment points at the transverse processes of the vertebrae of the lumbar spine? My shortened psoas was affecting my QL and therefore sending referral discomfort to my low back.
For this lower back self-massage we’ll use the Yoga Tune Up® ALPHA ball twin set and the classic size Therapy Balls. First the QL: Lay on your back and place the Alpha ball in the soft tissue area between your 12th rib and the top of your pelvis to the right of your spine. Roll onto the ball, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Stay here, for more pressure open your right knee and lay it on the floor. Then, either lay still or push into your left foot to hover your hips and move your pelvis forward and back and side-to-side. Repeat on the opposite side.
Next, for psoas self-massage, kneel and place your fingertips 2 inches to the right and left side of your navel. This is where the classic Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls will be placed to release the psoas major. Lay in sphinx pose on your stomach propped up on your forearms and place the balls, one at a time underneath you. Either remain on your forearms or lay all the way down, be still and breathe and allow the balls to penetrate as they navigate through the abdominal muscles and internal organs to reach the attachment of the psoas major to the anterior surfaces of the transverse processes of the vertebrae (T12-L5).
If you suffer from low back irritability maybe your psoas needs to be released. I’ve experienced much success with students and private clients using this technique as well. Perhaps it’ll help you too!
Enjoyed this article? Read Reorganize Your Psoas
This was great to help with low back tightness that I’ve been experiencing. It would have been helpful for me as I’m not as well versed in anatomy to have a little video or more pictures to help with the placements, particularly the psoas self-massage exercise to ensure I’m being safe with my internal organs and not squishing anything. I was also under the impression that there’s really no way to physically be able to touch or manipulate the psoas because of where it is located so I appreciate these exercises to try and get some relief.
This is so great! I’m pretty new to using the balls and I found this info to be very helpful! I am a massage therapist and I have worked on quite a few psoas and Qls. I have a few clients that are athletes and I hoping these two moves can help them with their own self care in between sessions with me!
I have suffered with this exact issue for several years! Thank you for shedding light on the relationship between these two (often pesky) muscles. Question- is it safe to massage the psoas with the Yoga Tune Up classic ball propped up on a block instead of the floor. It feels deeper for me, but I am concerned that it could be detrimental. Also, I am wondering if you have felt psoas release after rolling out the piriformis and glutes?
Ah yes, this explains so much! Have just taken an overseas flight – 13 hours sitting, and my QL has been talking to me. Not nicely. I also have chronic Psoas tightness from..well, life. Thanks for the article!
Thank you for this succinct remedy for QL pain and a fussy shortened psoas. So helpful to be reminded that they share the same attachment
I have had this Psoas release too and it made a big difference. I will try it with the balls as well
I’ve just read both of your posts posts and after days of pain I did the few stretches you listed in the first post followed this practice with the balls and experienced immediate relief! Thank you I am happy to be going into my YTU training this week
Love this…I find for both myself and my students that imbalances in the psoas translate in painful ways. The balls are a great way to get into the deep muscle tissues and release.
This is so interesting, can’t wait to try. Always looking for ways to remedy my lower back issues.
As someone who experiences lower back pain, I found this article very helpful and I found it very relaxing afterward and will definitely include this routine in my everyday self care routine. It is very important to target those areas of my back!
I have low back discomfort in the morning most days so I generally just take a hot shower but this is working even better. Great way for me to get my back tension to subside and start my day pain free. Appreciate the post
Excellent plan to tackle both the psoas and the QL to address low back pain. Haven’t thought about using the classics outside of the navel in sphinx position. It makes sense to really dig the balls into the psoas. I’m def gonna give it a try.
These 2 ball placements are my favorites (together with pecs and upper back). I personally use YTU TB similarly on the belly, only I start higher (below ribs at diaphragm height) and slowly reach down to just above hip bones, making 4-5 stops on the way in sustained compression as you explain. It can be somewhat uncomfortable but if practiced with deep breath and optionally on a softer base at first, it is truly efficient in releasing back pain
Great tip for using my alpha ball to help unglue my QL from the psoas. I haven’t tried the 2 orginal balls on either side of the belly in sphinx so I’m looking foward to trying that (read this one on a full stomach)!
This is great. I’ve had work done on my QL and Psoas before, but I’ve never been able to take matters into my own hands. Thanks for sharing these obtainable poses!
Yes! Great information. I had a similar experience many years ago…I had resistant lower back pain – even when I was not working out or dancing. A massage therapist who specialized in sports injury and prevention worked on my hips, glutes and psoas…the back pain was GONE ! Since then I have included rolling with therapy balls in my own self-care and I teach my dance students to do the same. Thank you!
In French we often call the psoas ” la poubelle des émotions “. If I try to translate, maybe we could say “the negative emotions garbage “. That sounds weird but I think you understand. So yes, sitting to long and not stretching the psoas that gets shortened is a problème, but I think that the 2 self massage you described in your blog can be reallllly helpful for almost everyone! Knowing that stress, fear and negative emotions get the psoas really tight, many people have back pain because of that! So let’s all roll and feel free ??
Thank you for the proposition of the massage technique with the Alpha Ball. I am certainly going to do it for me and my clients ! Psoas is such an important muscle !!! And so much people suffer from back discomfort !
I’m in the middle of my YTU training and today we palpated psoas major – wow!! I knew I had tight hip flexors, but still – wow. I occasionally suffer from low back pain and now that I have learned – from your blog and the YTU training about the close relationship between the psoas and the QL – I will make it a priority to lengthen, strengthen and roll my psoas and QL!
It’s so difficult to access the psoas muscle, a most important muscle to release. I learned this when I took a bodywork class and had release someone’s psoas and had them release mine – what a feeling! We were on a massage table with our legs hanging over the end of the table. One leg was then draped over the standing person’s shoulder and the free leg was extended and the released while the standing person dug into the space two inches from the navel. This method relied on another person (and an experienced bodyworker at that) so I am… Read more »
This post was a helpful outline of how to potentially address low back pain via the hips (releasing a major hip flexor in psoas major and the main hip elevator in the QL). While this isn’t a panacea for all low back discomfort, I have see similar positive results for my students who are chronically stressed and sit all day. When I don’t have access to the YTU balls in studios where I work, I offer the yoga blocks as a means to massaging the QL and the psoas in similar fashion to how to describe. I tried your method… Read more »
I will give that to one of clients and myself of course!
Good advice. Going to use both of these techniques on myself and on a private client to see if we can get some low back relief!
Thank you,very helpfull ✨
I think I have the same problem. Will definitely try this massage sequence. Thanks for the share.
Thanks for the information, i’ll try that tomorrow,
Psoas work is definitely important – whether it’s strengthening, lengthening, mobilizing, or giving it some slack. I have found the variety of ways to work with it very helpful in dealing with issues from posture to emotional trauma.
Great advice and a good reminder that we can all benefit from this at some time.
I am finding some release in QL with both of these techniques and am looking forward to seeing if I can make some lasting changes with practice. Thank you for sharing!
LOVE this work for the psoas. I’ve always struggled with this as I thought of working it from closer to the insertion point and have been afraid to put a firmer tune up ball too close to inguinal ligament of the femoral nerve and have been trying to figure out other ways than using the coregeous ball. And it makes a ton of sense to just move the balls closer to the origin and play there – this is so super and I can’t wait to try it!
Psoas release techniques can be such an amazing tool when performed properly. It can also be a very intimate place to give and/or receive this technique. Using the Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls for self treatment is such a great way to eliminate these obstacles. Thank you for sharing!
Because of my anterior tilted pelvis en therefore a shortened m.Psoas, I expected that I should feel the psoasmassage as more intense than the QL massage… but it was the opposite! For shure this will help me with my sometimes recurrent lowback pain and I will teach this to my sister who has the same posture (problems) like I have. Thank you for sharing!
QL and Psoas are often difficult work with. I have been using YTU Therapy Balls for QL for a while for my sciatica problem, but never tried on Psoas in sphinx pose. Before I had my lordosis corrected many years a go, most backward bending pose was difficult and unpleasurable. Now I enjoy simple backward bending pose like Cobra and Sphinx. I don’t have any back pain or problem in general but I have a feeling I am going to love this Psoas work. Thank you!
What a great reminder of how the QL and psoas are connected!! I have some clients with persistent low back pain, and I’ll be really interested to see if like you, releasing the psoas is all they need. I’m constantly amazing by the interconnectedness of our bodies. Thank you for sharing!
I have been successful in healing my back with the QL massage with the Alpha ball. I messed up my pelvis and strained my QL doing split jerks (dropping into a lung with a weighted bar overhead). My pelvis went into an anterior tilt and tweaked my back. With the Alpha ball, I was able to adjust my back- which I had to do almost every day-until my back healed. It was a slow process but I’m so glad I had my Alpha ball to help me get my pelvis back into position.
Thank you for this post, having alot of clients with LB issues and looking for something to self relieve at home or on business trips. This technique will come in handy.
I can’t wait to try this tomorrow morning. My low back feels fine until I’m sitting in a car and this might be the ticket to helping that. Thanks so much!