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The Quadratus Lumborum… say what?

It is estimated that 60-70% of people will experience lower back pain at some stage in their lifetime. One of the common causes of lower back pain can arise from the Quadratus Lumborum, or the QL muscle for short.

So a little anatomy, this muscle is a deep lower back muscle that attaches to the iliac crest of the pelvis to the 12th rib. The QL is an important muscle that supports posture and stabilises your spine during certain movements. When you extend your back or bend side to side you are using the QL muscle.

So how can the QL muscle affect you?

Well with poor posture and/or repetitive movements in dysfunctional patterns will cause the QL muscle to tighten. QL pain can be described as a dull, aching pain which can become sharp at times from specific movements. If the QL muscle tightens up on one side, it can lead to real asymmetry which puts additional strains on your lower back and pelvis.

It is very common for the QL muscle to become tight and overactive, this is because it is:

  • Compensating for other weak muscles around the area.

  • Due to repetitive movement – such as twisting, bending or lifting improperly all of which puts added stress on the muscle.

Apart from being painful, quite often one side will tighten and that can lift one side of the pelvis. Making you feel out of alignment and feel like you may have one leg shorter than the other. We can work on mobility and stability on the QL muscle At Balanced for Life, we assess the muscle and structures involved, then work on easing the pain by decreasing tension by releasing the muscle at certain points. We help regain range of motion through manual work on your hips and lumbar spine and finally assist with rehab to improve strength of the QL muscle so that there is a balance on both sides.

Here is what you need to do:

Consider how you are sitting throughout the day, are you sitting tilted or rotated, do you have a wallet in your back pocket? Positions like this will cause long standing imbalances on the spine and QL muscle. Try to stand or sit evenly so your hips are even.

Stretching can help treat QL muscle pain.

Practise to side bend and stretch QL muscle on both sides.

  1. Sit up tall and move your legs apart.

  2. Place one hand under the knee on the same side with your palm facing upwards; this will act as a lever.

  3. Lean over to this side, pulling yourself forwards and down with this hand.

  4. This will stretch the muscle in your lower back on the opposite side to the way you are leaning.

  5. Hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat both sides 10x times

  1. Anatomy and biomechanics of quadratus lumborum S Phillips, S Mercer, N Bogduk; Anatomy and biomechanics of quadratus lumborum

  2. Hesham Elsharkawy, Kariem El-Boghdadly, Michael Barrington; Quadratus Lumborum Block: Anatomical Concepts, Mechanisms, and Techniques. Anesthesiology 2019; 130:322–335


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