The Sneaky Little Muscle That May Be Slowing Down Your Progress
For many athletes and lifters, pain in the quadratus lumborum can pose as a real setback from reaching their training potentials. If you’re dealing with quadratus lumborum tightness or pain, know that you can find relief through simple stretches.
What is the Quadratus Lumborum Muscle?
Anatomically, your quadratus lumborum muscles are small muscles that attach to the top of your pelvis, lumbar vertebrae, and last rib. Since they are found so deep inside your lower back, your QL muscles may be difficult to find by yourself.
Quadratus Lumborum Function and Pain Prevention
Foremost, the quadratus lumborum muscles help stabilize your pelvis and spine. They are especially critical to have balanced while weightlifting.
As an example, if you deadlift or squat with a tighter QL on one side than the other, one leg and hip will undergo much more load bearing.
Your goal is to have quadratus lumborum muscles that are flexible with the same range of motion. In the long run, you can thank yourself for taking your quadratus lumborum stretching and recovery seriously.
But most of the time, the quadratus lumborum muscles are active while sitting or lying down.
Have you ever slept on your side, then you experience lower back pain? It might be coming from tightening your quadratus lumborum too long. Next thing you know is that your QL is super tight if side sleeping becomes a habit.
Other times, it feels like you can’t get up from the couch or out of your car it is so tight.
Since the quadratus lumborum is made up of slow twitch muscle fibers, sitting or sleeping unevenly can be affected the most.
Here a few things you can do to prevent quadratus lumborum pain:
- Don’t sit with a wallet or phone in your back pocket – just take it out.
- Don’t lean to one side while sitting, standing, or sleeping. Instead, notice your posture and correct it.
- Whether it be at work or not, take breaks every at least every 60-90 minutes from sitting.
- Include QL stretching and relaxation into your weekly routine.
- Provide enough time to warming up before athletic competition or performing heavy compound lifts.
What It Feels Like to Strain Your Quadratus Lumborum
During rigorous physical activity, the quadratus lumborum muscles can be strained. Sports such as golf and rowing can trigger a strain in your quadratus lumborum.
Repetitive movements such as side bending frequently and intensely can injure your QL muscles.
A sharp, yet lingering painful sensation may be noticed when your quadratus lumborum is strained. Whether the injury occurred because of weak back muscles or repetitive motions, a deep, nagging lower back pain is felt.
Many times, bad posture or form during these activities can cause most of the load bearing to go from your large erector spinae and flexor muscles to your small quadratus lumborum group.
And quite simply, your QL muscles are not designed to carry such intense loads. They are small muscle made up of slow twitch muscle fibers better suited for passive moments such as sitting and lying down.
How to Release Pain from Your Quadratus Lumborum
There are handful of ways to go about QL muscle relief. Finding which one works for you may take some trial and error. What may work for someone else may not work for you, so don’t give up.
DIY Ball Rolling
If you can find your quadratus lumborum muscles on your own, try out ball rolling. By using a lacrosse ball or tennis ball, roll on your QL muscles to relieve tension.
Take your time and don’t rush the process – a tight muscle doesn’t loosen in a flash. Plus, this a great way to relax the muscle before stretching.
While yoga literally means union, learning to find balance in your body can be powerful for your quadratus lumborum muscles.
When you can feel yourself out of line, you will naturally avoid postures and situations when your body is out of alignment.
If you like the idea of going to a massage therapist to help unwind your quadratus lumborum kinks, ask about myofascial release. It is a slow, yet highly relieving technique to loosen tight muscles.
You might notice a massive difference from just one session in how pliable and fluid your lower back feels.
How to Stretch Your Quadratus Lumborum Muscles
Prior to stretching, it is a good idea to warm up your QL muscles and let them relax. Such as rolling on a ball or other activities as mentioned above.
Stand with both feet shoulder width apart. Take the opposite side’s hand you are not stretching and place it securely on your hip. Raise your other arm above your head and tilt your torso so that you open up your quadratus lumborum.
Don’t bump or bounce your way into the stretch even if your warmed up because it can aggravate this small, tensed up muscle even more.
Take note, you can do this stretch standing or sitting. But if you’re standing, the wider your feet are, the deeper you will feel the stretch in your quadratus lumborum.
Stand one to two feet away from a wall with both feet parallel and touching. Bend your hip so that it touches the wall.
Use your arm closest to the wall to anchor and push away to feel a deeper stretch throughout your lower back. Switch sides after a minute to release your other quadratus lumborum.
Keep in mind to only have your hip and a bit of your side to touch the wall. Your body should resemble a curve similar to the side bend stretch.
Kneel on the floor and sit back on your feet. Bring your arms and torso down to the ground with your hands in front of your head.
Make sure your hands are extended yet relaxed and palms facing down. You will feel a subtle stretch deep within your quadratus lumborum muscles.
Of course, this a yoga position, but you don’t need to invest yourself in all of yoga to do it.
It might be the simplest stretch you can do for the quadratus lumborum, but it is gentle and highly satisfying. It lets your QL muscles to relax and slowly elongate in just the right way.
Knee to Chest
Start out by lying on your back, then bring your knees to your chest. Hold them there using your hands, but keep your legs relaxed.
Grip your knees so that you bring them closer to your chest and release slightly – back and forth. The idea is to a create a smooth, rocking motion.
Please do not bounce back and forth – a gentle rock is noticeably night and day from bouncing around.