The Quadratus Lumborum (QL)


Get to know your QL.

Recently I’ve been investigating and working on my quadratus lumborum or the “QL.”  This muscle attaches to

the top of the hip bone (illiac crest), the 12th rib, and parts of the lumbar spine. For a long time I’ve had a bit of pain (ranging from a lot of pain to just a pinch) in the neighborhood of my right low back.  At one point in time I was also told I have a right leg-length discrepancy.  (Most leg-length discrepancies are functional rather than structural.  That is, the discrepancy is typically due to contracted muscles pulling the leg up rather than one leg bone being longer than the other.)

A gimpy QL can cause various problems including low-back pain, shoulder dysfunction, breathing problems and balance problems.  Problems in the QL can affect hip position, ribcage position, spine position–all kinds of things. A tight QL can contribute to pinched nerves in the back, the symptoms of which I’ve had sporadically.

I’ve been digging around my low back with a Rumble Roller, the Stick and a lacrosse ball; and I’ve been working to lengthen the QL.  I’ve also been directly working the QL via side bends, side bridges, and 1-arm farmer walks.  I’m liking the results.  If you’ve got back pain you may want to work on your QL.

Here’s a link to a fairly good QL stretch and further information on the QL.

Below are some videos discussing and demonstrating ways to address the QL. The first video is a very thorough rundown of what the QL is, what it does, and common symptoms of QL dysfunction. The next two videos are from Kelly Starrett at MobilityWOD.  He discusses some ways to address a tight, gunked-up QL.  Next comes a video from chiropractor Dr. Craig Liebenson and strength coach Chad Waterbury. They present a way to test your QLs and then present a nice progression of strength exercises.  I’ve just started using this process with myself and some clients.  Finally, there’s a very brief QL stretch.  I like to use a stretch like this to test each QL and see if one is tighter than the other.  There are lots of ways to stretch the QL.  This is just one.

I personally have had some good, quick success in playing around with some of these strategies. I make no guarantees but maybe some of this stuff will help you too.








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