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QL Muscle Release For Lower Back Pain Relief

Introducing the low back muscle that can contribute to a host of low back and hip issues: Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Scroll down to learn about the QL muscle, the pain it can cause, and how to release it - or stay right here for our step-by-step QL muscle release tutorial.

The QL muscle gets overworked in activities that require spinal stability. Athletes and labor workers respond well to QL muscle release. Massage the QL if you are active in high-impact sports or are physically active at your day job.


QL Muscle Release Placement:

QL Muscle Release
How To Release QL Muscle
QL Muscle Release Placement


QL CLAW (tool pictured above)


QL Muscle Release Video Walkthrough: 

Target: Quadratus Lumborum

Check out anatomical considerations here: The QL Muscle


QL Muscle Release Written Instructions:

Placement for QL Muscle Release Using QL Claw

Quadratus Lumborum Placement: Place the Claw perpendicular to your spine, between the top of your pelvis and the lowest rib. To locate the QL muscle, lay supine (on your back) on the floor and hike one hip up towards the ribcage. The muscle that just did work is the Quadratus Lumborum.

*images below are for a right Quadratus Lumborum muscle release*

QL Muscle Release Level 1: The Starter

QL Muscle Release 1 Using QL Claw

Don't be a hero, start here. Get comfortable breathing in this position at a cadence of 5 seconds in, and 5 seconds out before moving on. The QL is more likely to release and relax if your body's physiology is relaxed.


QL Muscle Release Level 2: The Digger

QL Muscle Release 2 Using QL Claw

For a deeper massage, tilt your non-trigger-side leg towards the trigger side. This position shifts your center of mass towards the trigger, which results in more pressure on the QL muscle.


QL Muscle Release Level 3: The Bruiser

QL Muscle Release 3 Using QL Claw

This level is for pain-seeking masochists, with Quadratus Lumborum muscles made of wood. Don't do level 3 in front of too many people or you'll be put on a list. 


QL Muscle Release Level 4: The No-fly List

For an even DEEPER massage, assume the level 3 position and slowly crunch your core - so that your head and shoulders lift off the ground. We couldn't find a guy who could tolerate this, so level 4 is not pictured.


How to know you've released a trigger point: When you release a knot/trigger point, you will feel the muscle give and will simultaneously feel the device sink into your body. A massage generally feels less painful under higher pressure once a trigger point is released.



QL Muscle Release FAQ:

How To Release QL Muscle

Place the QL Claw massage tool on your QL muscle. Feel for tender spots and trigger points, and once you find them - slow the breath, allow your QL to sink into the tool, and release the muscle. After 90-120 seconds you should notice release.

QL Spasm Release

QL muscle spasms are often impossible to release without physical massage. Spasms need to be treated with massage delicately and frequently to let the muscle know it is safe to release out of guarding and spasms.

What Is A QL Release Tool?

A QL release tool is a specifically made massage tool for QL muscle release. The QL Claw is the first and only tool designed specifically for QL muscle release.



Beyond QL Muscle Release: Anatomy, Pain Patterns, Strengthening

QL Muscle Anatomy

Anatomy: The QL muscle is a deep low back muscle, and is sometimes considered the deepest abdominal muscle. The QL connects from the top of the hip (Iliac Crest) to the bottom of the ribcage (12th rib) and also connects to the lumbar vertebrae in criss-cross-like patterns [1]. QL lies underneath two large back muscle groups - the spinal erectors and Latissimus Dorsi ("Lats" for short). See Back Muscle Anatomy for a full diagram.

ql muscle release anatomy

Quadratus Lumborum (QL) Muscle
Function: The QL muscle's two main functions are 1) side bend the spine, and 2) stabilize the lower spine [1].
QL works hard during high-impact sports due it its critical spinal stability function. Athletes in sports like football, basketball, and hockey tend to have very well-developed, strong QL muscles. Athletes in these sports also may be subject to QL overuse because QL works all the time during these activities. Without a QL muscle, you would not be able to cut laterally in basketball, tackle an opponent in football, or even carry a suitcase with one arm. 

QL Muscle Release - Pain Symptoms

QL muscle pain is commonly found to be a contributing factor in patients who report nonspecific low back pain [1]. Patients with tightness and trigger points in their QL muscle(s) may experience increased pain in positions that require spinal stabilization, such as when carrying an uneven object or when balancing [1]. Patients also may report low back pain when ascending or descending stairs [1].

Additional QL muscle pain symptoms may include:

  • Difficultly hip hiking
  • Difficultly lifting an object that should be easy
  • Pain when participating in sports with lateral movement
  • Back pain from sitting (especially slouching) for long periods

QL Muscle Release - Pain Patterns

Quadratus Lumborum pain will generally feel like nonspecific pain and weakness in the low back. However, the QL muscle can refer pain to other areas of the body as well. The bright red regions in the image below indicate where pain can arise when QL muscle trigger points are present [1]. If pain is felt in the tailbone, upper hip/glute, or any of the bright red areas below, ql muscle release may be the ticket for pain relief.

ql muscle release pain patterns

QL Muscle Pain Patterns [1]


QL Muscle Strengthening

After effective QL muscle release, it can be beneficial to strengthen the QL muscle to improve spinal durability. It is important to release the QL muscle before strengthening it because strengthening will not remove the constant muscle tension brought on by trigger points and tightness.

A few great moves to strengthen the QL muscle:

  • Side Planks
  • Side Hyperextensions
  • Suitcase Carries (One Arm Farmer's Carries)
  • Banded Paloff Press
  • *Full QL Strengthening Exercises guide here


Check out our tutorials for releasing other low back pain-inducing muscles below!



[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[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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