Quadratus Lumborum, the unsung hero

Quadratus Lumborum (QL) rises to the top of my list as one of the most awesome and important muscles in the human body. It is a powerful square-like muscle in the lumbar (low back) region.

And wow, does this muscle have a lot of functions! It holds the twelfth rib steady during abdominal breathing. It elevates the hip and participates in lateral flexion of the lumbar spine along with anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar extension. It assists in rotating the torso. It has a strong influence on respiration and even digestion. The fibers of the lateral side of the QL are meant to act as a mover of the trunk and/or pelvis and the medial fibers are meant to stabilize the trunk in maintaining good posture.

An imbalance in this bi-lateral muscle group can be a primary contributor to chronic pain. Overuse or under use of the QL is often considered to be a common source of reccurring lower back, buttock, and hip pain.

It is common for us to experience lumbar pain bi-laterally – and in this case, one would experience their QL in a constant state of contraction, which would pull the rib cage down and the pelvis up. When the muscle is only activated on one side, the trunk bends towards that direction.

Common complaints I hear from clients with QL dysfunction:

  • Acute back pain and spasm
  • The spine feels “locked up”
  • Pain is often one-sided
  • Pain may radiate towards the gluteal region

It is also very common for the QL to take over for weaker muscles in the core. This typically happens when the deeper – and often smaller muscles – that run through the lumbar spine are compromised. This muscle usually gets called in to do the job of the erector spinae if they are weak or prohibited.

The QL is an important muscle to maintain in relationship to spinal health.

The modern seated lifestyle puts QL into constant contraction where it becomes short/tight and can eventually land in spasm. It can also be strained if you have a habit of sitting crossed legged with the same leg on top all of the time.

A few postural adjustments can go a long ways to preventing and treating a QL spasm. Be mindful of your posture while working at a desk. Your feet should always be flat on the floor and your weight should be evenly distributed through your hips.

To prevent or ease this pain, it’s important to strengthen these lower back muscles regularly. Keeping your QL muscles strong will also help you better perform everyday actions and possibly prevent future low back injuries. As well as keeping your QLs in great shape with strengthening exercises, you should also endeavor to stretch them to prevent tightness and lumbar spine stiffness. Foam rolling is an excellent activity for stretching and massaging the QL.

If you’re experiencing lower back pain, give me a call (404-964-6754) or shoot me an email. We can discuss a plan of action to ease your pain.