If you’re experiencing lower-back stiffness, it likely has to do with a pair of core muscles called the quadratus lumborum (QL). The QL muscles are located on either side of the lumbar spine (lower back) and travel down the sides of your back connecting your pelvis to your spine.
Most people have never heard of the QL muscle, but they perform pretty important tasks. A QL stretch can be as efficacious to your body as any other muscle group trained. Not only do you utilize your QL muscles to sit, stand and walk upright, but they also stabilize your pelvis and play a part in your breathing.
Your QL muscles cooperate with your abs and hips to transfer energies/tension between your upper and lower body. So when they’re compromised, meaning, your QLs are too tight or weak, this is very problematic for your back and other areas of your body. Tight QL muscles can evoke pain, complicate everyday tasks, and affect your overall physical performance.
However, you don’t have to allow tight or weak QL muscles to deflate your quality of life. Fortunately, incorporating a QL stretch and exercise into your daily routine can improve flexibility and alleviate aches and pains in your lower back.
What is a QL?
The quadratus lumborum (QL) is a large pair of muscles located on the posterior (back) side of your trunk. The QL muscle resides laterally on each side of the spine. It’s attached to the 12th rib, the transverse processes of the lumbar spine (L1-L4), and the top of the hip (iliac crest). The main anchor for the QL is the iliac crest. The is the long curved top part of the pelvis.
The QL is a deep trunk muscle. Meaning, it is located below other muscles, like the paraspinal muscles (muscles surrounding and attaching to the spine). The quadratus lumborum primarily aids the body to make a side bend and extension motion of the lower back.
What causes quadratus lumborum pain?
The QL muscle can become extremely hyperactive as a result of overuse with a specific activity. They could be compensating for a weakness in a neighboring sector of the body, or, they may experience too much activity too soon of a foreign motion to the body.
Don’t forget that the QL muscle is involved in specific movements of side trunk bend, rotation, and extension.
When moving through these different motions that either flex or stretch the QL in a hyperactive state, this can trigger low back tightness, soreness, and in some cases, back spasms.
This is probably what happens to people after playing too much baseball or tennis for the first time or playing golf for the first time and not leaving the course till they’ve proven they have skills like Tiger Woods.
Another way the quadratus lumborum can become impaired is by becoming overly lengthened, causing a strain. This usually stems from the QL muscle having gone past its full length resulting in micro-tears in the muscle fibers.
Signs of a QL strain will cause the lower back to experience sharp or jolting sensations with movement or even breathing.
Benefits of a QL stretch
Performing QL exercises and stretches are essential parts of building a healthy lower back. Durable muscles help support and stabilize the spine better than fragile muscles. While malleable muscles allow for better spinal movement and an increased range of motion — decreasing chances of injury and or strain. Both should be part of your workout routine.
- The Quadratus Lumborum supports good posture and helps to stabilize your spine when you bend to the side or extend your lower back.
- QL stretches can improve flexibility in your back and ease lower back pain.
- The QL muscle also helps to support the core of the body when we breathe.
- Stretching the quadratus lumborum can increase your back’s range of motion — decreasing the risk of injury.
In addition to the QL stretch, there are other exercises you can do to strengthen your core muscles and prevent lower back pain. Planks, side planks, butt walks, and bird dogs are all great options to consider.
The QL stretch is a great exercise for easing lower back pain and strengthening your core muscles.
By regularly including a QL stretch into your routine, you can greatly improve your lower back health and overall quality of life. Start small, even if it’s one Ql stretch or exercise a day. Then eventually, compound this new habit till you start to reach new levels of alleviation.
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No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other licensed clinicians.
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