Your Quadratus Lumborum muscles (QL) are found on either side of the lower back and are crucial in stability of the low back, especially when seated. Connecting the lower spine to the pelvis, the QL is a busy muscle, its actions include bilateral flexion, extension of the lumbar spine, respiration (helping the diaphragm to contract), and it’s an elevator of the hip.
If we get a tight and grumpy QL, we have to look at the bigger picture. This muscle never works alone, and if he is overworked and overlooked it’s because his neighbors are not doing their job. Many of you may know about these muscles in relation to back pain, and they are often the source of great discussion when trying to identify lower back issues. However, they are sometimes unfairly blamed as the sole culprit for pain and we can easily forget that the QL is just one part of a whole system of muscles that work together to support, stabilize and mobilize the spine.
In order to look after our QL we need to understand its relationship with the muscles around it, its anatomy and what we can do to strengthen it and release it. So, let’s do a quick crash course of anatomy. The QL is found on either side of the lumbar spine. They attach to the iliac crest (top of the hip bone), the transverse processes of the L1- L4 (lumbar vertebrae) and the twelfth rib (your last rib).
What can you do to make the QL happy?
Work Your CoreThe QL is often overworked when we are sitting. So anybody out there who works in an office chair, this is especially important for you. A strong core is very important in stabilizing your lower back when sitting for long periods of time. If your core is not that strong, your QL (the marathon runner of muscles) works overtime in supporting us. This means it gets tight and tired. So work on your core to protect your QL!
Work Your Glutes
Your deeper gluteal muscles (medius and minimus), among many other things, help to stabilise your pelvis during walking. So the QL and the glutes work together to stabilize our posture when moving. If your gluteal muscles are weak, again your QL will overcompensate.
Work Your SpineThe erector spinae are a group of muscles that run along either side of your whole spine. They extend the spine and when only one side is contracting, bend your spine to the side. Immediately you’ll recognize the identical actions as our QL. They are very close co-workers. If your erector spinae are weak, again your QL has to take up the slack.