Introducing the QL Muscle
What is QL?
QL or quadratus lumborum is a muscle that is deep within the abdomen and is either side of the spine. Think core muscles.
The QL helps with stabilisation and movement of the spine and pelvis. If you flex this muscle on one side your body will bend it towards that side. If you flex both sides it will extend the spine. Due to being attached to the twelve rib it also helps you to breathe out.
The QL is a team player and works in with iliopsoas, Lumbar paraspinals and smaller ligaments to stabilise the spine.
It starts on the back of the curve on the hip and iliolumbar ligament (this joins sacrum to pelvis) and inserts on the 12th rib and the transverse processes (the wings) of L1-L5.
3 Great Functions
• It bends the spine sideways • Rotates the trunk • Stabilises the pelvis
Problems of Tight QL’s
When your QL’s are tight it will show as a lateral rotation, this pulls the hip upwards creating a shortened leg on same side making the body twist slightly away from the centre line. This creates stress on the lower back and can be the cause of your back pain and it can drop the shoulder creating pain in the upper region of the body.
Pain from QL
If you leave a QL tight overtime the stress of the spine being pulled sideways creates a shearing motion that will cause a lot of pain. You are at risk of compression of the S1 nerve - commonly called pinched nerve.
It has the ability to sped up degenerative disc disorders.
Pain in the knees can caused from a weak QL - I know you cant win! If your left knee hurts it can be from weak right QL and weak left gluteal.
Why does it tighten?
Both over active and under active QL’s are problematic. One of the issues is staying in forward flexion for long periods (think sitting or bike riding). Scaring from surgeries in the lumbar area can tighten the QL, stretching before exercise will help, however scar therapy would be needed to remove the problem long term.
2 ways to help yourself at home
1. Stretch the QL
This can be done standing.
A door frame will be needed for this stretch.
Stand in the middle of the doorway and stretch your right hand up and touch the door jam to your left, also place your left hand on the door jam at your thigh level, this will give you a nice curve from your hand to hip this will slightly twist you towards the right. At this stage this is enough stretch, just hold and breathe for 30 seconds. For others that need to deepen the stretch you can move your right foot behind the left foot towards the door jam. Again hold and breathe for 30 seconds.
2. Strengthen QL
To strengthen QL lie on the ground on your side with your head resting on your bend arm. Stack your legs and bring both knees towards your chest. Now at the same time bend top leg from the knee at a 45 degree angle behind you while crunching the upper body towards your hip. see photo for leg angle.
NB. To strengthen both sides