Have you ever had intense pain in your lower back after a long day of driving or working at your desk? Perhaps with one side that feels worse than the other? Well, most likely your quadratus lumborum on that side is screaming at you in pain.
The quadratus lumborum, aka the QL, is a long, wide, flat, trapezoidal muscle closely resembling a flank steak. It originates from the bottom of the 12th rib and lumbar vertebrae L1~L4. It inserts on top of the iliac crest (hip bone), exists on both sides of the body, and connects the pelvis to the spine. It is functions as one of the deepest abdominal muscle and most of us don’t even know it exists! The QL plays a major role in our daily movement as both sides of the QL work together to extend our spines, and one side works independently to laterally flex the spine.
Have you ever heard that QL dysfunction is a common cause of lower back pain? Here is the reason why.
Imagine yourself sitting for long hours. The spine, in its ideal healthy state, has a S- shaped curve (aka Lordosis), but after sitting for a long time, the spine will change its shape to a C-shaped curve (aka Kyphosis) with the tailbone tucked under. This shape is also known as slumping. Once we stay in this slumped posture, we carry that into everyday life. Think Memory Foam. Your spine has memory, and it will try to retain the shape it is in most often. When you stay in poor posture day in and day out, your QL is affected as well results in muscle fatigue. The sluggish muscle will then experience a decreased blood flow. Unless you learn to stretch or release it, in time, adhesions in the muscle and fascia can form. This can result in painful muscle spasms, bulged discs, or even disc herniation.
Scary thought. But the good news is, there are things you can do to alleviate pain. You can roll out your lower back with Yoga Tune Up® Therapy balls. For deep muscles like the QL or Psoas, I recommend using bigger balls, like Therapy Ball Plus or the ALPHA Ball, so you can achieve deeper penetration into the tissue. Check out The Roll Model Bonus Move: Obliques, QL and Psoas.
You can also loosen/strengthen the QL by introducing certain movements to change your postural pattern. Lengthening the spine with yoga poses like Downward Facing Dog is a great thing to do. But when stretching the muscle alone doesn’t do your back justice, we need to find a way to wake up and strengthen it.
Come back on Friday for my QL fix that can be done anywhere there is a wall!