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Lower Back Muscle Pain - The Muscle Culprits

Lower back muscle pain is an epidemic. Over 80% of Americans are expected to experience lower back pain in their lifetimes [1], and with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles I expect that number to grow. When it comes to lower back pain treatment, muscles can be the most potent influence but also the most overlooked. This article shares a bit on muscle pain and how it relates to the lower back.

Lower Back Muscle Pain

What Is Muscle Pain?

Muscle pain is pain caused by knots, trigger points, and extreme tightness in muscles that manifests as pain in the body. Muscle pain from trigger points and tightness can be extremely painful and uncomfortable because of the constant muscle tension that stresses the body - this means that affected muscles are unnecessarily pulling on your joints 24 hours a day, 7 days a week [2]. Constant muscle tension can not only hinder mobility, but it can also create muscular imbalances, pull joints out of place, and impinge nerves (the most painful muscle pain manifestation).

Muscle Pain Trigger Point

Trigger Point Muscle Pain Illustration [2]

The trigger point in the muscle above displays the constant tension and tightness caused by just one trigger point in the body. In individuals who are very knotted up, it is not uncommon to have extreme tightness and trigger points in many muscles at once - especially in the lower back.

Lower Back Muscle Pain - The Muscles

When it comes to muscle pain in the lower back, a few muscles are recurring culprits of pain. In my experience thus far - these muscles are tight in nearly everybody. The exception are people with regular myofascial release and stretching routines, and even they tend to have tightness in one or two of these. The muscles are:

Quadratus Lumborum (QL): Quadratus Lumborum is a classic contributor to lower back muscle pain. QL lies deep in the lower back on both sides of the lumbar spine and can cause a lot of lower back and hip problems when trigger points are active.

Psoas & Iliacus (Iliopsoas)These two hip flexor muscles are quite similar in pain pattern and function, so I grouped them together. Iliopsoas-triggered lower back muscle pain is very common in sedentary individuals due to the hip flexor tightness that sitting can cause.

Gluteus Medius: Gluteus Medius (and it's buddy Gluteus Minimus) can also contribute to lower back muscle pain when tight. Gluteus Medius & Minimus are upper glute muscles - think of the highest part of the buttock with meat. When tight and knotted, Gluteus Medius can pull the pelvis backward and refer a lot of pain to the lower back.

Spinal Erectors: The Spinal Erectors are the long backstrap muscles that run right along the spine from the tailbone to the neck. Trigger points and tightness in these muscles can refer pain all along the spine, including the lower back.

Lower Back Muscle Pain Relief

The best strategy to combat lower back muscle pain is effective deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage can be done effectively by the hands of a physical or massage therapist (I'll even throw in acupuncturist), or at home with a deep tissue muscle release tool like QL Claw. QL Claw was designed to release all of the muscles that can contribute to lower back muscle pain when tight - and it can effectively massage each and every muscle listed above. Check it out below!







[1] “Patients.” American Chiropractic Association,

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

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