The quadratus lumborum (QL) is a deep, flat muscle in the lower back. It runs from the iliac crest of the hipbone to the lower rib cage and spine, connecting to several vertebrae along its length. This muscle plays an important role in stabilizing the spine and pelvis during movement and can be a source of back pain when it is tight or weak.
Stretching exercises are one way to help relieve tension, improve flexibility, and reduce pain associated with this muscle. This article discusses how to perform QL stretches safely and effectively.
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Detailed Anatomy of the Quadratus Lumborum
The quadratus lumborum is a deep abdominal muscle that lies at the sides of the spine and plays some of the most important roles in maintaining an upright posture.
It comprises four primary components: the anterior layer, lateral layer, intermediate sheet, and posterior sheet. Each component provides its distinct purpose, such as stabilizing lower vertebrae or strengthening sacroiliac joints.
This powerful muscle can also help rotate the body to the side and bend forwards, aiding in everyday movements like lifting boxes, suddenly turning around, and bending down to pick something up from the ground.
These four components keep our spines healthy and stable to perform everyday tasks without discomfort or compromised movement.
Signs You Need to Stretch Your Quadratus Lumborum
If you’ve ever experienced mid-back and hip pain, it may be a sign that your quadratus lumborum (QL) is tight. It can constrict movement and lead to pain when it becomes overly tense. Recognizing signs indicating a potential QL issue is a vital first step towards relieving discomfort in the low back and hips and taking actionable steps to stretch this necessary muscle group.
Common indications include lower back pain, particularly when stretching or bending forward, sciatica-like symptoms extending from the lower back down or across either leg, and pain radiating from activities that involve twisting, side bending, or deep abdominal engagement.
Working on lengthening your QL can play an important role in reducing chronic pain associated with misalignment of this particular muscle group and improving spaciousness in the torso for anti-inflammatory benefits.
5 Quadratus Lumborum Stretches for Relief
Now that you know the signs of QL tightness, it’s time to practice some stretches. The following five exercises can help reduce tension in this deep muscle group and restore the balance between the front and back of your body:
Knees to Chest
This is one of the quadratus lumborum stretches that can target either one side of your body or both.
- While laying on your back, draw both knees to the center of your chest and gently embrace them with your arms.
- Make sure not to tense up while doing this – let the strength come from within. Rock gently for 20-30 seconds, then relax, allowing yourself time to breathe in between poses if desired.
- To focus more intently on a specific side, alternate rocking one knee into the chest at a time instead.
Get the most out of your quadratus lumborum stretches with this helpful yoga pose.
- Start by sitting on your fully bent legs, bringing your bottom to the back of your ankles, and letting your chest rest upon them.
- Then, extend both arms in front of you and begin rounding your lower back as much as possible while tucking in the tailbone.
- Finally, hold it for between 20-30 seconds.
Seated Side Bend
Those with limited flexibility can benefit from seated quadratus lumborum stretches, which are simple and easy to do.
- Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor and keeping your back as straight as possible.
- Then raise your right arm to the left side of your body before leaning in that direction; this should create a stretch sensation along the right side of your torso.
- Hold it for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Standing Lower Back Stretch
- Position yourself with your legs spread wide and toes slightly pointing outwards.
- Keep your knees straight, and hinge forward at the hips as far as possible without feeling pain or discomfort.
- Once you have reached a comfortable stretch, hold this position for 20-30 seconds to reap the maximum benefits of this pose.
Supine Rotation Stretch
- To stretch your quadratus lumborum, start lying on your back with your feet on the floor and your arms resting beside you.
- Keep both shoulder blades firmly planted on the ground and your knees together.
- Gently lower one knee at a time to either side of your body until a slight pull is felt in the lower region of your back.
- Remain in this position for 20-30 seconds before returning to starting point and repeating with the opposite leg.
The Bottom Line
The quadratus lumborum is an important muscle group in the body, and its tightness can cause pain in many areas. Practicing these five stretches can help alleviate tension and restore balance to your torso, leading to improved posture and reduced discomfort.
Always take it slow and stretch with caution, as overstretching can be just as detrimental to your body’s alignment. However, by regularly incorporating these exercises into your routine, you can begin to see tangible results in a short amount of time.