Palpating Your Iliopsoas: Why?

Palpating Your Iliopsoas Muscle

As we noted in our previous article on iliopsoas, this is a key postural muscle. Iliopsoas is a particularly important muscle, both with regard to its function and its dysfunction. Its activity can also feel subtle and difficult to detect in our body. As the iliopsoas is located deep in the body, it can be difficult to visualize just where this muscle is and how it relates spatially to other muscles and bony structures. Sometimes the felt sense is the best way to really understand where something is in the body, especially when it’s hard to see. So one way that we can add to your understanding of just where these core muscles are is by palpating your iliopsoas.

Palpation, is a technical word for touch. You could think of it as touch with the purpose of gathering information. Massage therapists, osteopaths, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other professionals all use palpation in their work. Palpation can help those professionals locate bony landmarks and muscles in a client's body. It can also help them determine that condition of a muscle or tissue. For example, palpation can help them determine if a muscle is engaged or relaxed. In your own body, palpation can help you locate muscles and bones too! So, let's dive into palpating your iliopsoas. 

Cautions before palpating your iliopsoas

Both the iliacus and the psoas major portions of the iliopsoas are core structures in our body. This means we have to reach through or around other structures in order to feel them. In this case we'll be palpating your iliopsoas through your abdominals and just below many organs. For that reason, DO NOT try this exercise for palpating your iliopsoas if:

  • You’re pregnant.
  • You have any issues, dysfunction, or pain in the abdominal area, such as (but not limited to): colitis, constipation, or kidney disorders.

Finding iliopsoas

Remember that iliopsoas actually refers to two muscles: iliacus and psoas major. Iliacus is the deep hip flexor that's found along the inside of the ilium. Psoas major is the key core muscle that runs along your lumbar spine, continues over the front of the hip joint, and joins up with iliacus to attach to the lesser trochanter of the femur. We’ll be palpating each muscle of your iliopsoas separately.

The set up

Have a seat on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Let the legs relax and roll outwards, and let a little bend come into the knees. Fold forward at the hips a little and let the abdomen relax as you do so.


Bring each hand to find your hip points – the bony protrusions on the front of your pelvis, anatomically referred to as the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS). Curl your fingers around the hip points toward the inside of the pelvic bowl and let them sink in about an inch. Press your fingers outward towards the bone from the inside of the pelvic bowl and then lift one leg. The tissues you feel contracting on each side of the body are the two iliacus muscles.

Psoas major

Keep your fingers at the same depth in your tissue, but change their direction. Move the direction of your fingers toward the spine. Again, lift one leg. You should feel a distinct band of tissue pushing up into your fingers. This is psoas major.

Learn more about iliopsoas

Now that you have a felt sense of where the two muscles that make up iliopsoas are located in the body, by palpating your iliopsoas, read more and explore how the iliopsoas is involved in movement.


Earls, J. and T. Myers. 2017. Chapter 6: The Hip. In Fascial Release for Structural Balance. Berkley, CA. North Atlantic Books. 

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