How to Alleviate QL Pain : Quadratus Lumborum Stretch & Effective Tips/Exercises

Have you ever been seized by a deep ache in your lower back, making it almost impossible to stand straight? This muscle has messed with my back for years (it’s always the left QL muscle for me). The culprit could be your quadratus lumborum muscle. A hidden muscle of the lumbar spine, this unsung hero works tirelessly as we bend, twist and lift our way through life. But what happens when this powerhouse goes rogue?

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of quadratus lumborum stretches – unlocking secrets that not only relieve pain but also boost overall spinal health. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just someone seeking respite from persistent backache – there’s something for everyone.

You’ll discover yoga poses like gate pose and triangle pose which stretch these elusive muscles effectively. Like all new fitness and rehab journeys , develop a proper mindset to take on this new challenge with persistence and you will reach your goal.

So, let’s get started.

Quadratus lumborum skeletal muscle image

Understanding the Quadratus Lumborum Muscle and Its Functions

The quadratus lumborum (QL) is a deep core muscle lying in your back, stretching from the top of your pelvis to your lowest rib on either side of your spine. The QL muscles work tirelessly, playing a crucial role in supporting our lumbar spine.

This versatile muscle helps with many main functions like lateral flexion of the torso (think bending sideways). But that’s not all. When you cough or laugh hard enough to hold onto your ribs, guess what? You’re engaging this mighty little powerhouse.

A strong QL contributes significantly towards maintaining good posture and stabilizing our upper body while we move about during daily activities. If you’ve ever felt an unexpected twinge while reaching for something high up or twisting suddenly, chances are it’s a tight quadratus lumborum muscle screaming at you.

Bear in mind though – overuse or strain can lead to tightness and discomfort around the iliac crest region where it originates. Just as a guitar string gets off tune when too taut, excessive tension here might make simple movements feel like lifting heavy bags.

Lumborum Muscles: The Unseen Laborers

Your QL muscles work very similar to the ropes that hold up the mast of a sailboat. Yes, they also provide support in rotation and flexion , unlike a mast sail , but speaking in support of your mast (spine) you can see the comparison.

Now, imagine if one of the ropes on the mast was much tighter than the rest….we now have a tension problem throughout the entire mast and it will cause issues with the attached sails as a result. We need to rebalance the tension to match with the opposing force.

Intriguingly enough, they also tilt the tail bone slightly upwards which aids walking mechanics; truly demonstrating how interwoven each aspect of our musculoskeletal system really is.

sailboat mast with support cables showing

Common Causes and Symptoms of Quadratus Lumborum Pain/Tightness

The common issue I find with clients is that the QL is so deep within your core and close to your spine that many often think its a spinal erector muscle (lower back pain) or some kind of hip pain. Performing some simple movements/ stretches can usually determine if its the QL flaring up on you.

Recognizing Symptoms of Tight Quadratus Lumborum

A tightened quadratus lumborum doesn’t just hurt; it hinders mobility too. You may find bending sideways difficult or experience increased discomfort while twisting your torso.

Tightening of the QL muscles isn’t random – certain causes lead to this condition. Prolonged sitting with poor posture tops the list followed by lifting heavy objects incorrectly and performing repetitive tasks that strain these muscles. Take note on when ever you sit somewhere for awhile you may tend to sit in the same uneven posture (we humans live off of patterns). Another example is a cashier at a super market having back and QL issues from turning the same way to scan and bag groceries. Repetitions can add up sooner than you think. What patterns can you think of in your own day to day life that may be triggering an overuse injury?

Sometimes it’s not just one factor but a combination leading to such symptoms which we explore further here. While some activities are unavoidable given our lifestyle choices today, understanding how they impact our body can help us make better decisions.

Importance of Stretching and Stabilizing the Quadratus Lumborum

The quadratus lumborum muscle is very unique but also follows a common pattern I see with my clients. Often, the muscles over time become both weak AND tight (not just chronically tight).

This is through our ” un-human ” modern lifestyles of sitting around too much and not loading our skeletal muscles with new forces that they must adapt to. Below are a handful of both stretches and stabilizing movements to turn your QL’s as well as the rest of your core to build a stable foundation around your spine.

Stretching Exercises for the Quadratus Lumborum Muscles

Gate Pose stretch Yoga

Gate Pose Stretch

The Gate pose is an effective quadratus lumborum stretch. This yoga pose not only targets the QL but also strengthens other core muscles. To start, stand tall and move one leg out at an angle while keeping your tail bone tucked under. Raise the arm on the same side as your extended leg and lean towards the opposite side till you feel a strong stretch along with proper breathing technique.

Triangle Pose Yoga

Triangle Pose Stretch

Moving on from gate pose, let’s take a look at another useful exercise: The Triangle Pose – another great tool in our kit of QL stretches. Here again, focus is given to standing breathing techniques coupled with strategic positioning of upper body parts such as rib cage and left arm.

This posture involves widening your feet apart while turning one foot outward at about 90 degrees. You should then reach down towards this turned-out foot with both hands. As if trying to grab hold of something just beyond reach; creating a delightful stretch down through each individual vertebrae within lumbar spine all way up into lowest rib.

To reap maximum benefits from these exercises make sure you maintain each stretch hold long enough before switching sides. I recommend 2-3 minutes on the hold and focus on relaxing more and more with every exhale. Do not hold tension anywhere.

Half kneeling hip/ QL stretch

Half Kneeling QL Stretch

A simple and quick stretch that I add in for my clients with a tight back or QL is in a half kneeling position. To stretch the left side QL , drop your left knee to the ground and right knee up in front of you.

Next, take your left hand and place it on the back of your head. Now slowly bring that left elbow up toward the sky while slightly pushing your hips to the left. Follow the same steps for the right side. This is a quick way to get to the QL on whichever side the knee is down.

If you need some balance help in this position , feel free to grab a stick or a broom on the free hand and use it as support. Two minutes a side!

Stabilizing Exercises for the Quadratus Lumborum

Fortifying these QL muscles can bring more steadiness and diminish discomfort in your lower back. The good news is that you’ll be hitting a few birds with one stone when exercising your QL’s.

You will also be targeting your overall core (rectus abdominis , obliques, serratus anterior etc) as well as your Glutes and hip stabilizers in order to keep balance. These are all muscles that are usually in heavy need of strength with most folks today so it’s a win/win.

woman laying on the ground

Pelvic Tilt Exercise for Quadratus Lumborum Stability

Let’s start with the Pelvic Tilt exercise. It’s like sending your pelvis on a tiny seesaw ride. Lie flat on your back with feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Tighten your deep core as if pulling belly button towards spine while maintaining normal breathing. This move targets not just the QL but other core muscles too.

To get more out of this exercise, make sure to keep breathing normally throughout – it’s easy to hold one’s breath when focusing hard. Consistency is key here; practicing regularly will give you better control over these stabilizer muscles. You should begin with quality repetitions with great control.

If that means just 5 reps at a time…then that’s where we start. You want to be able to keep control on both phases ( try pausing on the top and bottom of the rep) for at least 10 reps before adding more reps and sets. Begin with 3-4 sets.

This simple yet effective stretch helps relieve tightness in both left and right QL areas without requiring any special equipment or heavy bags. So next time when watching TV or scrolling through social media feeds during ad breaks, try adding some pelvic tilts into those idle moments.

Finding balance between strength and flexibility is essential for the overall health of our musculoskeletal system – think Yin & Yang. A strong QL makes daily tasks easier because remember: every time we bend sideways or stabilize ourselves against forces trying to topple us (yes I’m looking at you crowded subway trains.), it’s thanks largely to this tireless worker sitting quietly by our lumbar spine region.

quadratus lomborum stretch over stability ball

Stability Ball Stretch & Crunch

This move also serves as a good time saver since it can stretch and stabilize the QL. Carefully roll yourself sideways onto a stability ball. The further your shoulders go over the ball the more intense the stretch will become (and the more balance needed).

If you do need balance help , plant your feet on nearby wall at the base. A wider stance will make balancing easier. Hold this stretch for a minimum of two minutes going very easy at first. Now, while in this position…you can begin raising the upper half of your torso off the ball ( even if its just a small amount) and you should feel the top QL and oblique engage to stabilize you.

Begin with holding this position for reps of 5 second holds. Remain focused on breathing and engaging the correct muscles while not letting your lower back do all the work. Begin with your arms crossed over your chest or the bottom hand on the floor if you need balance support. Having your arms further away from your center , i.e past your head , makes this movement increasingly difficult.

one arm farmers carry for core QL training

1 Arm Farmer’s Carry

Well, look at this exercise. A farmer’s carry….how’s this different from carrying a heavy bag of groceries? Largely…..it’s not. But chances are you are carrying your groceries with less than great effort and your back is doing a lot of the work while you sway a bit side to side during the walk.

This is where we work on a controlled pace and i prefer my clients to walk on an invisible line on the ground. So one foot directly placed in front of the other ( narrow your feet as close as you can handle with good balance if this is too difficult).

Next, brace your core ( as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach suddenly) but still keep your breathing pattern in good rhythm. The point here is to walk smoothly , not rushed , in a straight line and display that you are in control the entire time. Having only one kettlebell to hold will really challenge your core as well as your QL muscles as they work to stabilize your spine in this unstable movement.

You can assign reps or make the movement time based. I like to start my clients with 30 steps in each direction changing the kettlebell hand then coming back. Again, super controlled….and smooth , slow steps. Feelin’ badass? Add a 1 second hold knee raise to the steps for a big challenge.

Additional Techniques to Relieve Quadratus Lumborum Tightness

message ball rolling glute

You might be familiar with the use of a massage ball. This little tool can work wonders for relieving tight muscles. Gently roll the massage ball along your lower back and feel as the pressure points are activated, easing away discomfort from the QL muscle.

This is also known as soft tissue release and it can work wonders if done with patience. So use a ball or a foam roller and begin with minimal body weight onto the object as you roll around finding pain points. Once you find a pain spot….hold it there for at least a minute. This shouldn’t have you screaming. Let’s start with a 6 out of 10 discomfort.

If you don’t have a massage ball on hand, another useful trick involves using something as simple as a door frame. Stand facing sideways next to an open doorway and reach across your body to hold onto the frame with both hands. Lean gently into it until you feel a stretch down your side and around into your lower back – right where our stubborn friend lives. Hold for 2 minutes.

These techniques may seem unusual at first glance but they’re surprisingly effective at providing relief for tightened quadratus lumborum and overall back muscles.

Conclusion

Take it slow when doing these exercises and increase intensity gradually; pushing yourself too hard may lead to discomfort or exacerbate existing low back pain conditions. It’s advisable to gradually build up intensity over time rather than going all-in at once; remember – slow and steady wins the race.

If any discomfort arises during these stretches or if you have an existing chronic pain in your lower back , avoid forward bends as they might exacerbate it further.

In conclusion, be careful when starting new exercises and pay close attention to the signals your body is sending about its boundaries. It’s important to gradually build up your stretching routine. I hope this helps you on your fitness journey. All the best in health and happiness.

FAQs in Relation to Quadratus Lumborum Stretch

How do you loosen a tight quadratus lumborum?

Loosening the QL muscle requires regular stretching exercises like the gate pose or triangle pose. Massage techniques can also help relax this muscle.

How do you release QL tightness?

To release QL tightness, try stabilizing exercises such as pelvic tilts along with proper breathing techniques. Using a massage ball can also provide additional relief.

How do you stretch the quadratus lumborum release?

You can use specific yoga poses and stretches designed for the QL muscle. Gate pose, triangle pose, and side bends over a stability ball are all effective options.

What causes a tight quadratus lumborum?

A lack of movement or poor posture often leads to tight QL muscle. It may also result from carrying heavy weights improperly, repetitive movements or sustained periods of sitting.

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