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Aching for the Quadratus Lumborum

Find out more about the deepest abdominal muscle.

Many of your clients likely work desk jobs and sit most of the day. This is not an ideal situation for many reasons, one being the risk of developing chronic lower-back pain. If you or a client is experiencing aches or sharp pains in the lower back, the issue may stem from problems with the quadratus lumborum.

Referred to as “the QL” in anatomy geek circles, this rectangular-shaped muscle is located on each side of the abdomen and alongside the lumbar spine, connecting the pelvis to the lowest rib (de Pietro 2018; Wong 2019). Tightness in this muscle can cause pain in the lower back and impede a range of movements, since the QL serves multiple functions. It helps to straighten the spine, brings the ribs closer to the pelvis through lateral flexion, stabilizes the lower back, raises the hip when the thigh lifts, and assists with exhalation (Yoga Anatomy 2013; Martin 2018).

quadratus lumborum

Read on to elevate your understanding of the quad­ratus lumborum:

    • “Quadratus” refers to the shape of the muscle, which has four distinct sides (Yoga Anatomy 2013).


    • The QL is often referred to as the “hip hiker,” since it lifts the pelvis toward the lower ribs on the same side (Yoga Anatomy 2013).


    • People who have uneven hips often experience problems with their QL (Martin 2018).


    • QL pain can be linked to sacroiliac joint dysfunction, since a spasm in the QL can pull the hip bone above the range of motion provided by the sacroiliac joint (Malarvizhi, Harshavardhan & Sivakumar 2019).


    • QL discomfort is frequently caused by sitting for extended periods, having poor posture, lifting heavy objects, twisting while lifting, sleeping on an overly soft mattress, golfing, riding horseback or kayaking (de Pietro 2018; Martin 2018).


  • Here’s a stretch that may reduce QL pain: Standing with feet hip-width apart, reach the left arm up and over the head and lean to the right; hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side (de Pietro 2018).


de Pietro, M. 2018. Quadratus lumborum pain: Treatment and stretches. Medical News Today. Accessed June 17, 2019: medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320497.php.

Malarvizhi, D., Harshavardhan, S., & Sivakumar, V.P.R. 2019. Effectiveness of muscle energy technique to quadratus lumborum for treating innominate up-slip sacroiliac joint dysfunction: A single case study. International Journal of Clinical Skills, 11 (2), 65–67.

Martin, D. 2018. Quadratus lumborum muscle: Low back, hip, buttock, groin, pelvic, abdomen pain. The Wellness Digest. Accessed June 17, 2019: thewellnessdigest.com/quadratus-lumborum-muscle-low-back-hip-buttock-groin-pelvic-abdomen-pain/.

Wong, E. 2019. 3 step quadratus lumborum stretch program. Accessed June 17, 2019: precisionmovement.coach/quadratus-lumborum-stretch-program/.

Yoga Anatomy. 2013. Quadratus lumborum. Accessed June 17, 2019: yoganatomy.com/quadratus-lumborum-yoga-anatomy/.

Sarah Kolvas

Sarah Kolvas is the content manager for IDEA.

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