The Quadratus Lumborum muscle is a deep, structural lower back muscle that lies on both sides of the lumbar spine. Quadratus Lumborum pain can be particularly debilitating and difficult to comprehend - read on to learn what Quadratus Lumborum is, why it causes pain, and what to do about it.
Quadratus Lumborum Muscle
Quadratus Lumborum Anatomy
The Quadratus Lumborum, pictured above, is a deep, four-sided muscle that lies underneath two large back muscle groups - the Spinal Erectors and Latissimus Dorsi (Lats). Quadratus Lumborum lies on both sides of the lumbar spine, and it is so deep it is sometimes referred to as an abdominal muscle. To locate Quadratus Lumborum on your own body, check out this video:
Quadratus Lumborum Function
Quadratus Lumborum has two primary functions, 1) side bend the spine and hike the hip, and 2) stabilize the spine.
The first function of Quadratus Lumborum, which can further be broken into two categories of side bending and hip hiking, involves contraction of one side Quadratus Lumborum at a time. The difference between the two categories of Quadratus Lumborum contraction is the point of anchoring. In isolated side bending, the lower body is fixed while the upper body/torso bends to the side. In isolated hip hiking, the upper body is fixed and one hip is lifted up towards the ribcage.
The second function of Quadratus Lumborum, which in my opinion is more important to lower back health, is spinal stability. Quadratus Lumborum assists in spinal stability by tensing both muscles at once to keep the spine sturdy, strong, and neutral. This function of Quadratus Lumborum is key when performing high stress activities such as lifting a heavy object, playing an athletic sport, or carrying a heavy load. Without Quadratus Lumborum in these activities, the lower back would be subject to serious injury.
Quadratus Lumborum Pain
Unfortunately it is not all sunshines and rainbows for Quadratus Lumborum - it also has the potential to contribute to a lot of pain in the body. Quadratus Lumborum pain is commonly associated with extreme tightness, knots, and trigger points in the muscle that constantly pull on the joints to which it is attached.
Quadratus Lumborum pain can be triggered a variety of ways, but it will typically occur by a single high impact event. Examples of this include lifting a couch that is way too heavy, playing basketball for the first time in years, jumping off a 10 foot platform, getting in a car crash, etc. What all of these events have in common is that they place an incredible amount of pressure on the lower back - more force than the Quadratus Lumborum is trained to take. This puts the integrity of the lower back in serious danger, and at this point a spinal injury is right around the corner. However, Quadratus Lumborum can act as a defense mechanism against spinal injury by locking up in spasm and developing trigger points, knots, and insane tightness. The tensing of Quadratus Lumborum is a great short term solution because it protects the lumbar spine from injury - but damn does it hurt. Once Quadratus Lumborum is locked up in spasm it can severely limit range of motion, make every motion painful, and hinder nearly all physical activity. To make matters worse, Quadratus Lumborum can stay locked up for months or longer - unless treated effectively via deep tissue release.
Quadratus Lumborum Release
In order to get out of Quadratus Lumborum pain from tightness, spasming, and trigger points, one must seek out a method of deep tissue release (also known as trigger point therapy, myofascial release, or massage) for the Quadratus Lumborum muscle. The ideal way to get this done is via the hands of a trained physical or massage therapist, but those visits can be difficult to schedule around your time and can add up in cost quickly after a few sessions. The other, more convenient, cost effective way to release Quadratus Lumborum is in using a tool designed for releasing this muscle like QL Claw.
Quadratus Lumborum Release Using QL Claw
QL Claw is the only tool designed specifically for Quadratus Lumborum release, and it doesn't stop there. QL Claw was designed to release all 5 muscles that can contribute to lower back pain when tight, and Quadratus Lumborum is #1 on that list. QL Claw is extremely portable, has easy to use tutorials, and is right there when you need relief. Learn more at the links below:
Quadratus Lumborum Strengthening
After thorough release of Quadratus Lumborum, it can be very beneficial to strengthen the muscle to improve strength, endurance, and sheer resilience in the muscle. Training Quadratus Lumborum is a great defense against future Quadratus Lumborum pain and overall spinal injury. A strong Quadratus Lumborum will help stiffen the spine when it is under heavy load, so that the spine is protected and spasm is not required.
A few great Quadratus Lumborum strengthening exercises include the side plank, suitcase carry, and overhead paloff press. Check out all three exercises in the video below: