Quadratus Lumborum (QL)

Where is it?

There are two QL muscles: each located on either side of your lumbar spine (lower back). These muscles run from the top of your pelvis up, along the lumbar vertebrae, up to your 12th rib (the very last rib).These are the deepest muscles of our back.

QL viewed from the front side

What does this muscle do?

Both QL muscles work together to extend our spine. Independently, the QL muscle can elevate your hip to do a “hip hike” or it can help you bend your trunk to the same side. This muscle can also become activated to help you compensate when other core stabilizing muscles become weak such as your abdominal muscles.

The Quadratus Lumborum (QL) has been known to cause a  variety of symptoms depending on the individual. Hence the name “Trickster Muscle”.  It can cause:

  1.     Bloating/Nausea/Abdominal cramps
  2.     Low back pain
  3.     Groin pain (in men testicular pain)
  4.     Lateral Thigh and Hip Pain
  5.     Buttock Pain
  6.     Iliosacral Pain

Trigger points (knots) within the QL muscle can even cause other muscles nearby to become “agitated” such as the gluteus medius, a key “hipster” muscle.  While often overlooked, the quadratus lumborum muscles play a vital role in your body mechanics. They connect the spine, hips, and ribs, and allow you to move your body laterally, or side to side. Tightness in your QL muscles can cause back pain as well as affect your movement patterns resulting in pain in other areas as well.

Trigger Point Areas of Referred Pain from deep within the QL muscle


Trigger Point Areas of Referred Pain from superficial QL muscle area

What can I do about this?

      Look at how you’re sitting throughout the day- are you sitting shifted over to one side of your hip? Do you sit on a big bulky wallet?

      Positions like this can cause the QL to tighten. Try to sit with weight distributed equally on both sides of your pelvis.

      Standing: Do you stand shifted over to one leg? Do you “drop” one side of your pelvis when you’re standing?  Try to stand with your weight equal between both legs, keep your hips level

–       Fortunately, stretching can help alleviate QL tightness.

   Progressive PT can help!

      We will take an individualized approach to treating your dysfunction and pain. We will look not just at your area of pain but consider the muscle and its relationship to surrounding muscles and bones. We are your movement specialists.

      We offer Manual Therapy and Dry Needling services to target areas of tissue restriction or where trigger points have developed.  Specific therapeutic exercises will be designed just for you! Please call any time. 907-748-0022

Authors: Phyllis Ploudre and Aurora Gargagliano

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