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A flexible low back helps with movement

The quadratus lumborum (QL) is the deepest abdominal muscle. It plays an essential role in stabilizing the pelvis when a person is upright and is one of the primary sources of low back pain. Stretching it is essential for easing that pain.

Muscle anatomy

The quadratus lumborum is located deep in the low back. It originates on the top of the hip bone and attaches to the bottom of the twelfth rib and the sides of vertebrae L1-L4. The muscle extends the trunk backwards and to the sides, elevates the hip towards the rib cage, and increases the arch in the low back.

Symptoms of tightness

  • Pain or ache in the low back

  • Pain on the lower back during forced inhalation

Causes of tightness

  1. Compensation for other weak core muscles

  2. Repetitive movements such as twisting, bending or lifting improperly adds stress to the muscle

  3. Poor posture causes the muscle to be engaged all the time

  4. If you sleep on your side on a bed that is too soft, your quadratus lumborum can become tight and shortened on the side of your body that faces the ceiling

  5. Differences in leg length also cause muscle compensation in the upper body which forces the quadratus lumborum to constantly work statically when standing or walking

Flexibility test

  1. Stand with your heels, buttocks, shoulders, and head against a wall

  2. Raise your right hand over your head and keep your left hand by your side

  3. Inhale deeply

  4. Exhale as you bend to the left allowing the left hand to slide down the outside of our left thigh (make sure to keep both buttocks, shoulders, and your head against the wall)

  5. Your left fingertips should reach the outside of the left knee

  6. Repeat test on the right side

Static release

  1. Lie on your back with your feet elevated on a chair or sofa

  2. Your knees and hips should be bent 90 degrees

  3. Place a tennis ball or lacrosse ball on the low back (in between the top of the hip and the bottom of the ribs (approximately 2 inches to one side of your spine)

  4. Find a sore spot that is a level 5-8 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being excruciating)

  5. Stay on that spot for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until there is just pressure and no pain

  6. If the pain subsides below a level 5 before the 2 minutes are up, drop both knees toward the ball side and hold

  7. Repeat on other side of the spine

Retest using the flexibility test.

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Dec 15, 2021

Important information about a muscle that I never considered "vocal" (ie, causing symptoms), but a muscle that can be an important cause of back pain!

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