In our culture of sitting, low back pain is something everyone has experienced or knows someone who has. One of the culprits of low back pain is the quadratus lumborum. Although rather small, it’s a very powerful muscle that wraps around the lumbar spine and stabilizes it. The overuse of this muscle shows up as low back pain and can radiate to the buttock muscles, IT band, hips, and sciatic nerve to name a few. If we stood in tadasana to use the computer, the QL would be happier. But we don’t. We sit. We sit some more. And we sit some more. When we leave the computer, we go sit in the car to drive to sit at Starbucks for coffee. You get the idea.
This is a great muscle to get to know if you suffer from low back pain or know someone who does. I broke down the quadratus lumborum by creating important information about the muscle using the actual name of the muscle. Notice the YTU poses that will help the QL are at the end, since the last thing you read usually sticks ;-). It’s also easy to find for future reference. And without further ado, I introduce you to the QL. May you have a long-lasting, HEALTHY relationship starting now.
Quadrilateral in shape, broader below than above. Hides out below the erector spinae.
Used to elevate the hip when we walk, allowing the leg to swing through.
Anteriorly tilts the pelvis. Abdominal muscle, rectus abdominus is on the opposite side of QL.
Deep! One of the deepest muscles in the posterior trunk and forms part of abdominal wall.
Rounded shoulders and/or spinal kyphosis place extra stress on the QL by shifting body weight forward.
Assists in forced exhalation and inhalation by fixing the 12-th rib in place when diaphragm contracts.
Together with psoas major, the QL wraps around the lumbar spine, stabilizing it.
Used too much the QL becomes weak from constant contracting from sitting.
Strength and flexibility of QL and psoas are crucial for optimum movement and stability of spine.
(As does the QL, so does the psoas. And vice versa.)
Laterally flexes the trunk/spine. QL inserts at lumbar vertebra 1-4 and the 12th rib.
Unilateral muscle-as one QL contracts, the opposite releases and lengthens.
Mechanical back support in chairs actually weakens QL.
Back of the pelvis, posterior iliac crest is where it attaches.
One YTU therapy ball on each QL for self-massage, relieves the muscle and connective tissues.
Ready? Set? Child’s pose! YTU Twisted Child’s Pose, to be exact, is a great stretch for QL.
Unbelievably great for strengthening and lengthening QL is YTU Sidewinder Minivini.
Make YTU Boomerang Pose part of your daily routine to strengthen and lengthen QL.
I look forward to seeing you on the mat so we can explore the QL together and create a world with less back pain, one YTU class at a time. Truth be told, the QL is connected to the thighbone and the thighbone is connected to the heart and lungs, and toes… it’s all connected. The more we tune in, the more we can tune up. 🙂 Seriously.
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Thank you for an easy to understand cause and effect of lower back/QL pain. Your acronym is amazing and covers so much information about where and what the QL does along with why is causes problems and how to go about fixing it. Bravo!
I loved how you explaine QL, I’ll introdouce that information in my next classe.
I am actually doing my level 1. I knew the QL before, but with YTU, I realize more and more of its important and the impacts it has in our body. I like the QL.
This harmless daily gesture can cause SU MUCH trouble. The question that comes to my mind is “did I make my students aware of it?”. Thank you for the reminder!!! I could do a class only on this gesture.
I’ve recently come to know my left QL quite well because of an issue with my hip, but I’ve learned so much more about it from this post, thanks. I also agree with you about the standing desk, I used to have one in my last office and I loved it, I never had any aches and pains compared to sitting all day.
Terry – wonderful creativity in your writing. Thank you so much for this adventure into the QL!!!!
Oh my goodness! I love how you related facts about the QL to all the corresponding letters of the name. I had an injury to my left QL many years ago from an adjustment that i got from a yoga teacher. And i’ve also been informed that I have a “collapsed” left pelvis. Each time I get a massage, I feel a lot more on my left side. And side winder has amazingly helped to rehabilitate that QL.
I love this antonym explanation. It makes learning about this part of the body so much fun! It makes me want to create one for all the muscles that fascinate me! Thank you for bringing a little Bill Nye to your article in order to satisfy the inner child some of us (most of us) still have inside up. Thanks for the great read !
I love the simple breakdown of all the things related to the QL. Such a simple, yet important muscle that is involved with so many parts of the body and body movement!
What a fun lesson on the QL! I have realized that my QL weakness is impacting my overall posture. Sidewinder and boomerang are now part of my regular routine. Thank you!
wow, great break down of the QL. I injured mine kayaking a few years ago and I am reminded often the importance of the relationship with the psoas . The video is great. thanks for the amazing article.
Reading this article makes me excited to teach clients about their lower back pain. They can find relief in a couple of different ways and I am excited to start providing them with a toolbox of exercises, and stretches to show them how.
-I’m seeing now that lower back pain can show up in many different places in your body and the term is so general. My next step will be figuring out WHY they have lower back pain- whether it’s tight hips, glutes or QL, etc.
See, I couldn’t even get it right 🙂
I like your spelling, QUADRUS LUMBORUM, out for us in detail, a good little poem.
Fantastic article Alison, over the years as a massage therapist I have used lots of self massage tools & IMHO nothing gets into QL’S like the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Ball. lots of oohs and arrgs ,and plenty of relief!! This was a highlight for me of doing the Roll Model Training earlier this year,
Now I have been introduced to sidewinder and boomerang YOGA TUNE UP POSTURES as I’ve been doing the level 1 YTU Training, a great help after arriving with a very stiff back from the UK.
A FUN and informative article, THANK YOU FOR POSTING.
What an effective way to highlight so much information about this muscle that only announces itself loudly when we abuse it! Thanks for giving us some great visuals and the work to keep it strong and flexible.
Very creative blog Allison! Can you post a video of Twisted Child’s Pose?
What a fun way to learn about the quadratus lumborum! A couple of years ago, I got a standing desk at work. It took a week to get used to doing that much standing (can you say, roll out feet and shins?). Once acclimatized to standing, I realized just how much better my lower back and hips felt by not constantly sitting. I guess in this case, the overuse of the QL while sitting is the danger. The adage use it or lose it, isn’t overuse it or lose it… on this topic means tubular core and some lateral flexing of the spine for a happy QL that helps to stabilize me at my standing desk.
Thanks for the post! Very effective way to introduce us to the QL. Using the Yoga Tune Up therapy balls on my QLs, especially the right, has helped to lessen some inbalances in my body and relieved some longstanding right lower quadrant pain! Such an easy and effective fix – love it!
Creative use of the word to describe what this amazing muscle does for us (and how many of us, myself included have been abusing it. Just submitted a request for a standing desk!! Thank you.
Great, informative article about the wonderful QL, lots of information brought together in a great way. Thank you 🙂
Thank you for this concise summary of the QL. personally I have found that releasing the QL with Yoga Tune Up balls can improve knee pain too. If this muscle is tight it truly seems to effect everything in the lower extremities.
I work with a client that sufferers from back spasms and I am look forward to alleviating his stiffness with these Yoga Tune Up poses. Thank you for the break down of the quadratus lumborum via acrostic poem style, so clever. I will refer to this blog often to learn more about the infamous QL.
Lots of great ideas for working through Lower Back pain. The QL is nothing to mess with. Will explore these poses.
Thanks for e reminder that the QL elevates the hip to swing the leg through. I had forgotten about that action. The clever acrostic poem idea is a great on for helping me study and remember the basic facts . I might steel that idea for other muscles 🙂
My favourite line is : One YTU Therapy ball on each Ql for self massage. Such sensation can be generated rolling out the QL! The results are amazing, especially when combined with other poses such as Boomerang. My massage therapts marvels at how much self care I am able to do.
I love this! I love the QL and this helps me remember or LEARN (really since my anatomy is lacking) what, how, why, and applications thereof. I did not realize the QL wrapped around the lumbar spine and I did not realize it was a synergist to the psoas. One more I might add as one of my favorites as well is QL walks…
Thank you for your amazingly informative acrostic poem (more please!) After years of blaming my spinal erectors I’ve finally started rolling out and stretching my QL to great result. I had no idea I was loading so much tension on this poor muscle!
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I love the QL and I’m always looking for new ways to strengthen and stretch this chunky muscle. I feel that it really helps me personally keep my lower back in alignment and it can even offer a chiropractic adjustment for the lumbar spine (which is always a bonus) Most people don’t even know about this beautiful muscle so it’s fun to educate people about how it helps them. Thank you for the introduction, I look forward to a long and healthy relationship and sharing some of this knowledge with m students and clients!!
I didn’t know that the QL stabilized the 12th rib with exhalations and inhalations. In fact when I think of many of those functions I think of the Illiopsoas but I suppose that is more for flexion of the hip…
Thank you Terry, I have been teaching at a community center now for 10 months and one of two clients indicate that low back pain is their concern. I am grateful for this information on the QL and will bring the YTU poses you have suggested to my next class. I am pumped ! They thank you in advance !
Brought into my attention today into my YTU training how QL and obliques activation can really tune up your triangle pose.
A good percentage of our beginning yoga students will complain about lower back problems. I will be sure to use all the information shown as you make so many wonderful , constructive points to alleviate and hopefully eliminate back problems originating through not being mindful of the quadratus lumborum. I will advocate Child’s pose, Twisted Child’s Pose and the Sidewinder Minivini and Boomerang Pose to all with back problems which will help to lengthen and strengthen the QL
What a wonderful article regarding the QL, it’s function and the benefits of using the YTU therapy balls and sidewinder!
In my practice I see more people with QL problems, and it is a very misunderstood muscle. Most people don’t understand the relationship between the QL and the ribs, so when they come in with back problems, and then discuss their breathing issues,
With explanation of where this muscle attachments are, they discover that with some release and exercise on this muscle,they now can feel better, move with less pain, and breathe!
Awesome. Thank you. I am presenting at YTU teacher training tomorrow, parighasana…. And getting to know the QL in the process. Unilateral muscle is the newest understanding for me. I am understanding the relationship between the hips, the QL and the spine…and that one rib on either side. Very cool.
What a magical discovery the Quadratus Lunborum! Thank-you for so clearly laying out the juicy information about this muscle. This has certainly been one of my blindspots; I am excited to explore strengthening and stretching it.
This was a great article! You made the information regarding the QL easier to understand! Years ago I was told by a chiro that I had ridiculously contracted Ql’s; I remember speaking with a personal trainer not too long after who had no idea what they were. I wish I could have known this information then, so I could have enlightened her! I also love that you included the sidewinder and boomerang as suggestions for strengthening. Thank you!
Yet again another great article. I have a client who tonight was complaining about lower back pain and well in fact she has been in much pain for the last two months. I have just come off of 4 days of yoga tune-up training and have learnt sooooo much and am on fire to teach all that I know to those that need it the most. I suggested rolling out her QL’s tonight with the Alpha ball but she was really hesitant and scared to be honest as the last time she did balls / yin yoga class and was completely debilitated the next day. Now I am not sure if it was because of the long held passive YIN poses that did her in or if it was the balls in her lower back but I am trying to inspire her to give it a try once more. She got on the alpha and did a little with her QL but had to come off because of fear. I will endeavour to continue my quest as I am positive this is the key for her as well as some really good hip opener YTU postures. Thanks so much
What a fundamental yet overlooked/misused muscle (as is the psoas). I love how you spelled out the QL with corresponding phrases to help us remember information about it and which YTU poses are best to strengthen and lengthen the QL. I have a love affair with side winder 🙂
Thats pretty interesting. Those are all my favorite YTU exercise that you listed, I guess my body intuitively knew where my problem area is and what to do for it. I’ve had a hard time accepting that from now on I have to do something for my QL everyday to manage it and not have the pain/tightness but it helps to look at it the way you put it, QL-Quality of Life..
After a lot of sidewinder in class today, “One YTU therapy ball on each QL for self-massage, relieves the muscle and connective tissues.” was exactly what I make my tissues happy. This is a great acronym and a great reminder to balance strengthening and lengthening for both sides. Now that I’ve been re-introduced to my QL I’ll be referring back to this article often!
Wow Terrific Terry! What more can one say. The QL has been my “Achilles heel” for forever. This does not fall into the category of “too much information”. Really appreciate your acronym and if I can’t remember it all, I shall remember to refer back to it.
Terri – Thanks so much for the acronym of the QL!! Such a large amount of information packed in nice and neat. I have been struggling for a while now with my QL muscles being out of balance, my right being shorter than my left. I’ve done so much research on this muscle and was surprised to find out how important this muscle is in stabilizing the hips.The imbalance created such misery in my body from my low back, to my outer hip, and even my shoulder. I have have found that I must pay attention daily to these powerhouses of a muscle making sure they are in balance and in harmony so that just as you said I have a “Quality Life”
I find that the QL’s are better massaged by the YTU massage balls when your hips are elevated off the ground and then supported by blocks. Place the balls on top of the block and then go to town on your QLs. For me, I’ve found this to give a much deeper and targeted release.
Nicely posted! Bringing some life to what can get a little monotonous…. i.e. lower back pain… feeling it and hearing myself compain about it That provided a breath of fresh air on the QL. Quite literally.
Couldn’t agree more with the poses that you recommend. Sitting at a desk all day and commuting by bike I’ve added these to my daily practice and/or add a few boomerangs while I’m on my headset in my office. I had been focusing almost exclusively on psoas stretching prior to YTU and I hadn’t realized how little focus my QL had gotten prior to that.
I’m so happy I read this article as it couldn’t come at a better time. Has been few days that I feel both QL firing and giving me lower back pain. YTU balls give me such a relief from pain. I have a bit of lordosis and I find that I target the QL better while standing against a wall rather then on the mat. Thank so much for this intelligent breakdown of information on the QL!
I love this article. Allison clearly demonstrates the benefits of this pose especially as it relates to the quadratus lumborum and low back pain due to overuse oftentimes caused by spending too many hours ia day sitting at desks. I plan to incorporate this pose into my 10 minute office lunch break routine. Anyone can do it too no matter what they are wearing.
[…] get to know your Quadratus Lumborum (or ‘QL’). Your QL inhabit the space between the bottom rib, the pelvis and the transverse […]
Thank you for this explanation and clarification on how the QL co-exists with the abdomens so to speak. This a tremendous addition to helping me as I learn and understand the deeper muscles and movement associations.
Allison, I LOVE this! I am one with my QL after suffering from debilitating back pain two years ago. It gets really tight when I’m bike commuting a lot AND when I’m at my computer too long without moving around. The YTU poses you mentioned have been great, in addition to using the YTU Therapy Balls first on thoracolumbar fascia, then migrating laterally to the QL. Heaven. Let me go do that now…. 😉
So awesome! Thanks for this terrific article! 😀