Iliacus Muscle Dysfunction: Symptoms & Injuries

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  • 0:04 Running Into Trouble
  • 0:33 Iliacus Muscle
  • 1:06 Iliacus Dysfunction
  • 2:07 Iliopsoas Muscle
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

The iliacus is a muscle of the pelvis and upper thighs that frequently becomes injured and painful. Dive into this lesson to learn more about this type of injury, including its various symptoms.

Running Into Trouble

Teryn is a 32-year-old elementary school teacher who runs several times each week, usually between five and seven miles each time. However, she does not stretch her muscles before or after running. Lately, she's been feeling a lot of pain in her hips and groin area.

Worried that her pain might be sometime serious, Teryn goes to see her doctor to get her injury checked out. After examining Teryn, the doctor informs her that she has iliacus muscle dysfunction, caused by her constant running and lack of stretching.

Iliacus Muscle

The iliacus is a triangular-shaped muscle located in the hips and upper thighs. Specifically, this muscle sits in the iliac fossa, which is the large, round, surface at the front of the pelvic bone. This muscle extends down and attaches to the top of the femur, which is the large bone of the thigh.

The iliacus muscle functions to stabilize and flex the hips. Hip flexion involves lifting or raising the thigh in front of the body, such as when you raise your thigh each time you take a step forward when walking or running (this muscle is often referred as the hip flexor.)

Iliacus Dysfunction

Over time, the iliacus muscle can become shorter, especially if someone sits at a desk job each day. This muscle can also become shorter through lots of exercising without stretching. As this muscle shortens, it can start to cause dysfunction and injuries in the hip and pelvic regions of the body, such as:

  • Trigger points - These are tight areas or knots in the iliacus muscle that are painful, tender, and stiff.

  • Iliacus ischemia - This is a condition of reduced blood flow to the muscle.

  • Hip, knee, and lower back problems - If the iliacus on one side of the hip becomes shorter than the iliacus on the other, this can cause a person to walk with imbalanced hips, affecting the normal gait of a person. (Try walking while keeping one hip lower than the other, you'll probably start to feel pain and irritation in your hips, knees, and lower back.)


The main symptom of iliacus dysfunction is pain. This pain is in the hips, groin, lower back, and upper thigh regions of the body. Other symptoms include:

  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Tenderness

Iliopsoas Muscle

The iliacus muscle combines with the psoas major muscle (another muscle of the hips) to create the iliopsoas muscle. Both muscles start in different places but merge at the top of the thigh bone. This is where injury can likely occur.

Just like the iliacus, the iliopsoas is responsible for hip flexion. This muscle is also involved in trunk flexion, which is bending the trunk forward such as when you perform a sit-up or bend down to tie your shoes. There are two common injuries associated with the iliopsoas muscle (often the terms are used interchangeably):

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