Updated: Apr 14
The quadratus lumborum (QL) is a muscle located in the lower back and is often overlooked when it comes to stretching and injury prevention. Despite its importance in supporting the spine, maintaining posture and assisting in movements like bending and twisting, the QL is frequently tight and is often a factor in lower back pain.
Let’s see below how important the QL is, and how regular stretching, massages and other methods can help to alleviate tension in the muscle, prevent injury, and improve mobility.
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Why is the Quadratus Lumborum Important?
The QL is a deep muscle located in the lower back, between the 12th rib and the top of the pelvis. It helps to support the spine, maintain good posture and assist in movements like bending and twisting. It is also key in maintaining stability in the lumbar region.
Tightness in the QL muscle can result in various annoyances, including lower back pain and limited range of motion. For the most severe cases performing everyday tasks can become a challenge if your QL is too tight.
Additionally, tightness in the QL can cause imbalances in the surrounding muscles, leading to further injury, comorbidities, and discomfort. You now see why stretching that unknown muscle with a barbaric name is so important.
8 Yoga Asanas to stretch the Quadratus Lumborum
Stretching is mainly to prevent injuries and rehabilitate the QL muscle. Regular exercise will help to increase flexibility, alleviate tension, improve posture, and prevent injury.
Here are a few yoga asanas focusing on lower back twists and extensions, that can help to target the QL:
Triangle pose, also known as Trikonasana in Sanskrit, is a classic yoga pose that provides a deep stretch to the sides of the body, including the hips, legs, and spine. This pose can also help to improve balance and stability, as well as increase overall flexibility.
Stand tall: Start by standing in Mountain pose (Tadasana), with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
Step your feet apart: Step your left foot out to the left, about 3-4 feet from your right foot. Turn your left foot out to the side and your right foot inward, so that both feet are facing forward.
Extend your arms: Reach both arms out to the sides, keeping them shoulder-height and parallel to the floor.
Bend to the side: Keeping your legs straight, bend your body to the side, reaching your left hand toward your left ankle. Your right arm should be reaching toward the ceiling.
Ground your hand: Place your left hand on your ankle, shin, or the floor, whichever feels most comfortable for you. Keep your right arm reaching toward the ceiling.
Lengthen your spine: As you reach to the side, be sure to lengthen your spine, avoiding any hunching or rounding in your back.
Hold and breathe: Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, taking deep inhales and exhales as you feel your body stretching and lengthening.
Release: Slowly come back to standing, releasing your arms to your sides. Repeat on the other side.
Revolved Triangle pose, or Parivrtta Trikonasana, is a twisting yoga pose that provides a deep stretch to the hips, legs, and spine. This pose is a more advanced variation of triangle pose and requires a greater level of flexibility, balance, and strength.
Start in triangle pose: Begin in triangle pose, with your left foot about 3-4 feet from your right foot, and your left hand reaching toward your left ankle.
Ground your left hand: Place your left hand on the floor or a yoga block, with your fingers pointing forward.
Twist your torso: Keep your legs grounded and straight, and begin to twist your torso to the left. Reach your right arm up toward the ceiling, keeping it straight.
Place your right hand: Place your right hand on your left ankle, shin, or knee, whichever feels most comfortable for you.
Lengthen your spine: As you twist, be sure to lengthen your spine, avoiding any hunching or rounding in your back.
Hold and breathe: Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, taking deep inhales and exhales as you feel your body stretching and twisting.
Release: Slowly come back to triangle pose, and then release to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Listen to your body as you do revolved triangle pose and avoid pushing yourself too far. Start with a gentler twist and gradually deepen the pose as your body becomes more flexible.
Double Pigeon pose, also known as Agnistambhasana, is a seated yoga asana that targets the hips, glutes, and lower back. This pose is a great option for stretching and releasing tension in these areas, making it a popular choice for those looking to relieve tightness or discomfort.
Start seated: Begin seated on the mat with your legs stretched out in front of you.
Bend your right knee: Bend your right knee and bring your right foot to the outside of your left knee.
Cross your left leg over: Cross your left leg over your right leg, so that your left ankle is resting just above your right knee.
Lean forward: Keeping your back straight, begin to lean forward, reaching your hands towards your feet.
Adjust your legs: Adjust your legs so that your right ankle is resting under your left knee and your right knee is pointing up towards the ceiling.
Hold and breathe: Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, taking deep inhales and exhales as you feel your hips and glutes stretching.
Release: Slowly release back to seated and repeat on the other side.
Pigeon Pose, or Kapotasana, is a yoga asana that targets the hips, glutes, and lower back. It is a popular choice for those looking to release tension and tightness in these areas and improve flexibility.
Start on all fours: Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
Bring your right knee forward: Bring your right knee forward and place it on the mat behind your right wrist, keeping your shin parallel to the top of your mat.
Straighten your left leg: Straighten your left leg behind you, pointing your toes and keeping your left knee pointing up towards the ceiling.
Lower your hips: Lower your hips down towards the mat, keeping your right ankle under your right knee. You can use your hands to support your hips as you lower down.
Reach forward: Reach forward with both hands, keeping your back straight as you lengthen through your spine.
Hold and breathe: Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, taking deep inhales and exhales as you feel your hips and glutes stretching.
Release: Slowly release back to tabletop and repeat on the other side.
Take your time in pigeon pose and avoid any sudden movements or overextending. You can also use props such as blocks or blankets to help you find a comfortable stretch.
The Spinal Twist on the Floor, or Jathara Parivartanasana, is an asana that helps to stretch and release tension in the spine, hips, and back. It's a gentle twist that can be done as a warm-up, or as a way to soothe and relieve tension after a long day.
Lie down on your back: Begin by lying down on your back on a yoga mat or blanket.
Bend your knees: Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the mat, hip-width apart.
Relax your arms: Let your arms relax by your sides, with your palms facing up.
Twist to one side: Take a deep breath in, and then exhale as you twist your knees to the right side, keeping both shoulders on the mat.
Hold the twist: Hold the twist for 5-10 breaths, taking deep inhales and exhales as you feel a gentle stretch in your spine, hips, and back.
Release the twist: Slowly release the twist and return your knees to the center.
Repeat on the other side: Repeat the twist on the other side, twisting your knees to the left side.
Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and comfortable as you do the spinal twist. You can also use a yoga block or blanket to support your knees, if needed.
The Wide Legged Forward Fold, or Prasarita Padottanasana, is a standing forward bend that stretches the hamstrings and hips while calming the mind and body.
Here are the steps to perform the pose:
Start in a standing position with your feet about 3-4 feet apart.
Turn your toes outwards, away from each other.
Inhale and raise your arms overhead.
Exhale and fold forward from your hips, keeping a straight spine and reaching for the ground.
Place your hands on the ground, or use blocks for support if you cannot reach.
Relax your neck and let your head hang heavy.
Hold for 5-10 breaths, then release and repeat if desired.
Remember to breathe deeply and move mindfully into the pose, listening to your body and avoiding any pain or discomfort. The Wide Legged Forward Fold is a great way to release tension in the legs and lower back.
Janu Sirsasana, also known as Head-to-Knee Forward Bend, is a seated yoga posture that stretches the spine, hips, and hamstrings.
Start in a seated position with your legs extended straight in front of you.
Bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot to the inner thigh of your left leg.
Keep your left leg extended straight.
Inhale and lengthen through your spine, then exhale and bend forward from the hips towards your left foot.
Hold onto your left foot, ankle or shin with both hands, keeping your back straight and your neck relaxed.
Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
Extra tips: If you have trouble reaching your foot, you can use a strap around the foot or place a block under your hand for support. Also, keep your left leg active by pressing the heel away from you, and avoid rounding your back.
Janu Sirsasana is a great pose for stretching the spine, hips, and hamstrings, and can also help calm the mind and relieve stress.
Wild Thing, or Camatkarasana, is a dynamic yoga posture that strengthens the arms, back, and legs while opening the chest and hips. Here's how to do it:
Start in Downward Facing Dog.
Shift your weight forward onto your hands and lift your right leg up and back.
On an inhale, swing your right leg forward, lifting your torso and chest up, and come onto the ball of your left foot.
Reach your right hand back, then bring it forward, extending it overhead as you reach your left hand towards the floor behind you.
Keep your gaze forward, and hold the pose for a few breaths.
To release, lower your right hand to the floor, then your left hand, and return to Downward Facing Dog.
Repeat on the other side.
Make sure to engage your core, keep your hips level, and avoid arching your lower back. You can also play with lifting both feet off the ground for an added challenge!
Wild Thing is a fun and invigorating pose that strengthens and opens the body, and can be a great addition to your yoga practice. Have fun with it!
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes a tight quadratus lumborum?
There are several factors that can cause the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle to become tight, including:
Poor posture: Prolonged sitting or standing in a slumped position can cause the QL muscle to become tight.
Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to tightness in the QL muscle, as the muscle is not being used regularly.
Repetitive motions: Repeating the same movements over and over again, such as lifting heavy objects, can cause the QL muscle to become tight.
Overuse: Overusing the QL muscle can lead to tightness and discomfort, especially in individuals who engage in physical activities like running or cycling.
Stress: Psychological stress can lead to physical tension, including tightness in the QL muscle.
Age-related changes: As we age, our muscles naturally become tighter, which can include the QL muscle.
It is important to address tightness in the QL muscle to prevent the development of pain and discomfort in the lower back and other related comorbidities. Regular stretching and physical activity can help to maintain the health of the QL muscle and prevent tightness from developing.
How do you stretch the quadratus lumborum against a wall?
Here is one way to stretch the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle against a wall:
Start by standing with your side facing a wall.
Place one hand on the wall, and keep the other hand on your hip.
Take a step away from the wall, so that you are standing at an angle to the wall.
Keep your feet pointing forward, and bend your inside knee.
Keep your back straight and tilt your pelvis forward, so that you feel a stretch in the side of your waist.
Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then release.
Repeat the stretch 2-3 times on each side.
It is important to listen to your body and not push yourself too far, as overstretching can cause injury. Start with a gentle stretch and gradually increase the intensity as your body becomes more flexible. Stretching regularly can help to improve flexibility and reduce tightness in the QL muscle.
How do you release trigger points in Quadratus Lumborum?
Here is one way to release trigger points in the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle:
Locate the trigger point: Trigger points in the QL muscle are often found near the lower back, on the side of the waist. They can feel like knots or tight spots in the muscle.
Apply pressure: Use your fingers or a massage tool, such as a foam roller or tennis ball, to apply direct pressure to the trigger point.
Hold pressure: Hold the pressure on the trigger point for 15-30 seconds, or until you feel the muscle start to release.
Repeat: Repeat the process on any other trigger points you may feel in the QL muscle.
What weak muscles cause tight QL?
Tightness in the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle can be caused by a variety of factors, including weak muscles in other areas of the body. Some common weak muscles that can cause tightness in the QL include:
Glutes: Weak glutes can cause the QL to work harder to stabilize the pelvis and lower back, leading to tightness in the muscle.
Core muscles: Weak core muscles can cause the QL to compensate for stability, leading to tightness in the muscle.
Hamstrings: Tight or weak hamstrings can cause the QL to work harder to stabilize the pelvis, leading to tightness in the muscle.
Hip flexors: Tight or weak hip flexors can cause the QL to compensate for stability, leading to tightness in the muscle.
Strengthening these and other related muscles can help to improve overall posture and reduce the risk of tightness in the QL.
What does QL tightness feel like?
Tightness in the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle can cause a variety of symptoms:
Low back pain: The QL muscle is located in the lower back and tightness in the muscle can cause pain or discomfort in this area.
Muscle knots: The QL muscle can develop knots or trigger points, which can feel like tight spots in the muscle.
Limited range of motion: Tightness in the QL muscle can limit your ability to move freely, especially when twisting, bending, or reaching.
Referral pain: Tightness in the QL muscle can cause pain or discomfort to spread to other areas of the body, such as the hips, glutes, or legs.
Postural imbalances: Tightness in the QL muscle can cause changes in posture, such as an exaggerated curve in the lower back or a tilt in the pelvis.
How long does quadratus lumborum take to heal?
The length of time it takes for the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle to heal depends on several factors:
The cause of the tightness or pain: If the tightness or pain is caused by a specific injury, it may take longer to heal than if it is caused by a more general condition, such as poor posture or overuse.
The severity of the condition: The more severe the tightness or pain, the longer it may take to heal.
The course of treatment: Different types of treatment, such as physical therapy, massage, stretching, or medication, can affect the length of time it takes for the muscle to heal.
The individual's overall health: Factors such as age, fitness level, and overall health can affect the length of time it takes for the muscle to heal.
In general, mild to moderate cases of tightness or pain in the QL muscle can respond well to treatment within a few days to a few weeks. More severe cases may take several weeks or even months to heal, depending on the underlying cause and the course of treatment.
How do you relieve a tight QL muscle?
How do you release tension in the quadratus lumborum? There are several ways to relieve a tight QL muscle:
Yoga of course! Stretching is the most effective way to relieve tightness in the QL muscle. Stretching regularly improves flexibility and reduces tension in the muscle.
Massage: Massage can help by increasing blood flow and breaking up knots in the muscle.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy, by using exercises to improve flexibility, strength, and posture.
Chiropractic care: Chiropractic care can help by realigning the spine and improving posture.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help to relieve tightness in the QL muscle by reducing pain and increasing blood flow to the area.
Hot and cold therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help, by reducing pain and increasing blood flow.
The quadratus lumborum is an often overlooked but important muscle in the lower back. Tightness in this muscle can lead to lower back pain, limited range of motion and difficulty performing everyday tasks. Regular stretching can help to alleviate tension, improve posture, and prevent injury.
Incorporate stretches into your routine 2-3 times a week for best results. Remember to listen to your body, and only stretch within your limits to prevent injury!