The iliopsoas muscle is formed by a combination of the psoas major, psoas minor and iliacus muscles. These muscles originate from the lumbar spine and pelvis and attach to the upper portion of the femur. Any injury in this area will result in poorly localized pain in the low back, hip and groin.
Typical injuries include iliopsoas strain, where there is tearing of muscle fibers, and iliopsoas tendonitis that is marked by inflammation of the iliopsoas tendon. These injuries are the result of sudden stretching of the muscle by flexing the hip or externally rotating the thigh. Repetitive hip flexion can also cause harm.
Symptoms of iliopsoas injury include pain and stiffness in the hip that can often radiate into the thigh. The pain can be very intense and often results in an athlete withdrawing from competition.
Iliopsoas injuries are most common in gymnasts, dancers, track and field athletes and soccer players. Venus Williams was recently forced to withdraw from the Australian Open due to what was reported as an injury to the iliopsoas. Any activity that requires repeated hip flexion can result in damage.
These injuries can be avoided through a stretching program performed regularly. Strengthening of core muscles including the hip and pelvis will not only improve overall athletic performance but avoid injury to the hip, pelvic and upper leg muscles.
Treatment includes rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications. A stretching program should be instituted when pain subsides. Unfortunately, an iliopsoas injury often requires up to three weeks of rest.
Many musculoskeletal hip injuries can be avoided and successfully treated with a carefully executed stretching regimen.