Low Back Pain is a common injury that many people experience at least once in their life. Today we want to cover a muscle that is often a contributor to low back pain and what you can do to help relieve the symptoms.
The quadratus lumborum or QL for short is the name of the muscle that commonly affects the low back. Because the quadratus lumborum has many functions and attaches to many parts of the body, it has a tendency to tighten up and cause low back pain or not be strong enough to support the low back.
The quadratus lumborum attaches to multiples parts of the body including:
- 12th rib
- Lumbar spine vertebrae 1 to 4
The QL has many functions including:
- Acting as a postural muscle
- Bending the lumbar spine/low back sideways
- Bending the lumbar spine backwards
- Assisting with breathing
- Stabilizing the spine and pelvis
With all the functions it has, if other muscles that share similar functions as the QL do not work as effectively as they should, then the QL will compensate and tighten up.
When the QL has tightened up, here are 2 stretches you can incorporate to relax the muscle.
- Child’s pose stretch
- Start on all 4s with your hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips
- Rock backwards so that your buttocks are touching your heels
- Bend your body sideways and reach to the side with your hands to increase the intensity of the stretch
2. Seated QL stretch
- Sit up tall in a comfortable chair
- Reach over to the right side with your left arm
- Feel the stretch on the left side.
Quick tips when stretching:
- the stretches should not be painful, if they are, don’t stretch as far or the exercise is not right for you
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, 3-4 times, twice a day for a beneficial effect.
Another possibility is that the QL is not tight, but actually weak.
Here’s a test and exercise you can perform to see if your QL is working well.
- Lie on your side and line up your elbow directly below your shoulder
- With your legs straight and stacked on top of each other, lift your hips off the ground
- You should be able to draw a straight line through the body
- Don’t let your body rotate forwards or backwards.
- Keep your opposite arm resting on your side.
With this test/exercise, you should be able to hold a side bridge for 45-60 seconds.
If you are unable to pass the test. A starting point to build up the QL is holding the side bridge for 5-10 seconds and repeating 3-5 times each side.
If this exercise is too hard, try the modified version – knees bent
While these exercises can bring relief and reduce symptoms, it may not completely resolve the back pain. It may just treat the symptoms, but not the root cause; however, it does assist with identifying the appropriate areas of treatment and potential sites of compensation. If you found these exercises helpful with your symptoms and want further clarity to help resolve your symptoms, give us a call or come on in for a consultation.
Author: Zachary Hum