The QL muscle is a deep, structural lower back muscle that contributes greatly to spinal strength and stability. QL muscle is incredibly functional, but it can also cause pain when it is a wreck. Read on to learn more about the QL muscle, what it does, how it can hurt, and how to optimize it for strength and pain relief.
QL Muscle Anatomy
The QL (Quadratus Lumborum) muscle, pictured above, lies deep in the lower back. QL lies underneath two large back muscle groups - the Spinal Erectors and Latissimus Dorsi (Lats). In fact, the QL muscle is so deep that it is sometimes referred to as a deep abdominal muscle . The QL muscle lies on both sides of the lumbar spine, and connects from the top of the hip (Iliac Crest for you anatomy folks) to the lowest rib (12th rib). The QL muscle also connects to the lumbar vertebrae in criss-cross like patterns, which is not depicted well in the stock photo above.
QL Muscle Function
QL has two primary functions - the QL muscle is 1) a side bender and 2) a spinal stabilizer. One singular QL muscle functions in isolation during side bending. Side bending is the best way to feel a real contraction in the QL muscle, as this will allow the QL to actually contract and shorten as muscles do.
The second function of the QL, spinal stabilization, involves both QL muscles working together to keep the lower back strong, neutral, and safe. QL performs its spinal stabilization function rigorously during high-impact sports like football, basketball, and hockey to literally keep the spine together. It is important to have a healthy, strong QL muscle in these sports to be resilient against lower back injuries.
QL Muscle Working Hard To Stabilize
QL Muscle Strengthening
When training the QL muscle for strength and function, I personally love isometric resistance exercises. Isometric resistance exercises will require great effort from the QL muscle, but will not twist or bend the spine, greatly reducing risk of injury. *Tangent: Twisting and bending the spine isn't typically a problem with bodyweight movements, but can be a real problem when weights and external load are in the picture*
QL Muscle Strengthening Exercise - The Side Plank
Check out this video below for 3 great QL strengthening exercises for building awesome strength, endurance, and resilience in the QL muscle:
QL Muscle Release
QL muscle pain can be extremely debilitating. Trigger points and tightness in the QL muscle can constantly wrench on the joints, reduce mobility, and impinge nerves - which manifests as pain. In order to rid the QL muscle of trigger points and tightness that contribute to pain, a deep tissue QL release should be performed. QL release can be performed be the hands of a physical or massage therapist, or by a targeted muscle release tool like QL Claw.
QL Claw was designed to release the 5 main muscles that contribute to lower back pain when tight, and the QL muscle is number 1 on that list. QL Claw is the best QL release tool, and the only massage therapy tool designed specifically for QL muscle release. If you have a stiff, rigid QL, it can be beneficial to work the QL muscle daily until the knots and tightness are no longer present. I highly recommend QL Claw for anyone complaining their QL muscle won't release.
Check out QL Claw's tutorials on QL release for written and video instructions on how to effectively release the QL muscle, and learn more at the link below!
 Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.