Meet Quadratus Lumborum (QL)—these little muscles can be a pain in the butt as well as the side of the back, hips, and groin. Your QL muscles are located in the lower back along the spine between the bottom rib and hip.
The Quadratus Lumborum muscle is used to side bend your spine by moving one side of the rib cage down toward the hip, or to lift up one hip at a time—this is called “hip hiking”. It can also cause the lower spine to extend, like in a Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). This happens when both sides of the QL muscle contract simultaneously—this muscle is used in breathing, and helps support the spine along with the core muscles and the erector spinae.
The Quadratus Lumborum muscle can get overworked due to prolonged sitting or standing, especially with poor posture. When one side of the muscle is shortened unevenly, it can even cause a mild to severe difference in leg length which can cause further problems and discomfort.
Below are some postures to help stretch and strengthen the Quadratus Lumborum to ease back pain and prevent pain!
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This yin pose is great for gently lengthening the Quadratus Lumborum muscle. Remember to hold the pose for several minutes on each side.
- Begin by lying down on your back with your legs extended.
- Scoot your hips over to the left. Be sure to keep both hips down on the mat.
- Arch your upper body and your legs over to the right, creating a banana shape.
- Hold on to your elbows overhead if it feels comfortable.
- Cross your left ankle over the right to keep your legs in place.
- Breathe deeply into the exposed side of the ribs, the left side.
- Hold for 3-5 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
Wide Legged Forward Fold
This variation of Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana), feels amazing!
Sanskrit: Prasarita Padottanasana
- Start with the feet wide and hands on your hips, just like as if you were going into Wide Legged Forward Fold.
- Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale fold forward keeping your back flat. Release your hands to the mat.
- Walk both of your hands over to the right. Take your left hand and grasp your right ankle and then stack your right hand on top.
- Arch your ribs toward your left leg.
- Breathe into the left side of the ribs and with each exhale reach the rib cage slightly closer to the left leg.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Head-to-Knee pose (Janu Sirsasana), can be great for stretching the Quadratus Lumborum. Try bringing the knee out further than usual for a deeper QL stretch.
Sanskrit: Janu Sirsasana
- Begin seated with both legs extended out in front of you in Staff pose (Dandasana).
- Keep your left leg straight. Bend your right knee in toward your chest and open it out to the side, bringing the sole of the right foot to the left inner thigh.
- Traditionally, the right knee would stay at about a 90 degree angle, but in this variation if the knees are healthy, try taking the knee further back, creating a greater than 90 degree angle.
- Twist your torso so that your sternum tracks toward your left knee.
- Inhale to sit tall, and as your exhale fold forward toward the left leg, drawing the navel in toward the spine as you fold.
Side Plank pose
Side Plank pose (Vasisthasana), is a great pose to strengthen your Quadratus Lumborum.
- Begin in a forearm plank.
- Transfer weight to your right arm and roll onto the outside edge of your right foot.
- Either stack your left foot on top of the right, or to modify stagger your feet.
- Feel for lifting the hips up as if you were being pulled up by a rope around your hips.
- Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
- For more advanced, begin in Plank pose and find a side plank on your hand rather than your forearm.
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