The word quadratus comes from the latin word “quadrus” meaning square while lumborum comes from the latin word “lumbus” for “loin.” The quadratus lumborum (QL) is the deepest abdominal muscle. It’s located in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine. It starts at your lowest rib and ends at the top of your pelvis. It’s common to have pain here because you use this muscle to sit, stand, and walk. It plays an essential role in stabilizing the pelvis when a person is upright. It also helps support the core of the body when breathing. The quadratus lumborum muscle is one of the primary sources of lower back pain.
Pain in the quadratus lumborum can be due to overuse, stress, and strain. Pain from repetitive motions and weak back muscles leads to poor posture. Poor posture, such as slouching and leaning to one side when standing or sitting without back support can place added stress on the quadratus lumborum and lead to soreness. Sometimes muscles cause pain and stiffness when they’re overworked, weak, or too tight. Activities such as sitting for long periods of time can cause continuous contraction or tightness which leads to muscle fatigue, stiffness and tension, especially in the QL and surrounding areas. If muscles surrounding the quadratus lumborum are weak, it can cause other muscles to work harder than necessary to support the body.
Uneven leg length may place added strain on various muscles in the body, including the quadratus lumborum. If one leg is shorter than the other, the pelvis may be higher on the side of the longer leg. The tilting of the pelvis may also lead to a shortening of the quadratus lumborum, which can strain the muscle. Symptoms of quadratus lumborum pain also include tightness and discomfort in the lower back region. Lower back pain is often described as a deep aching pain, but it may also be felt as sharp and acute, depending on the cause. Sharp pain may also be felt when sneezing or coughing. The type and severity of the pain may vary.
Like any muscles, the quadratus lumborum can be injured. Trauma to the muscle from an accident or sports injury can lead to quadratus lumborum pain. Common everyday activities done in the wrong way can also lead to an injury. For instance, awkward or incorrect lifting of heavy objects can strain the quadratus lumborum. All of these factors can make you twist, bend, or lift improperly, which creates more tension. It can also lead to your QL becoming too tight if it has to overcompensate to stabilize your spine and pelvis. Quadratus lumborum pain can even interfere with doing everyday activities. Although the discomfort often occurs at rest, it may become worse with movement. Walking, standing, and rolling over in bed may aggravate the pain.
Quadratus lumborum pain may also be chronic, which means it is long-lasting. Long-term pain often interferes with a person’s quality of life and well-being as well as affecting them physically.
You can treat quadratus lumborum in several ways. Applying heat and ice can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend you take some type of painkiller or muscle relaxant. Trigger point injections are another option. Therapies by certified professionals that may help ease your pain are massage therapy with myofascial release, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture. Perform movements that focus on stretching and strengthening the area. Side bends and stretches are important to release back tension and engage the side muscles. Do exercises that will lengthen the space between your ribs and pelvis.
- Overhead reach. Standing with the feet hip-width apart, reach the left arm up and over the head and lean to the left, as far as is comfortable. Hold for 20 seconds then repeat with the other arm.
- Lying down quadratus lumborum stretch. Lying face up, extend the arms fully to either side. Bend both knees and cross the right leg over the left leg. Let the legs drop to the right, as far as possible. Hold for 20 seconds then repeat with the other leg.
Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are effective core strengtheners. Walking at a moderate pace can also help to ease back pain. Along with improving physical function, exercise may also improve mental well-being in people with ongoing back pain.
Consult your doctor if you think you’re experiencing quadratus lumborum pain. They can help you get to the root of your pain and determine if it’s related to any underlying health issues. Health care providers can work with you to come up with a treatment plan and recommendations for self-care and home treatment.
If you don’t treat QL pain, it can result in stress to other areas of your body. Once your body compensates to support one part that isn’t symmetrical, additional imbalances and misalignments can occur. The pain can become more severe and spread to other areas of your body. Pain in the quadratus lumborum may potentially cause pain in your hip joints, buttocks, and thighs, pain in your sacroiliac joint, low back, or abdomen. If one part of the body is causing pain, other regions may compensate to try to support the injured area.
QL pain that is treated in the early stages can usually be managed and improve over time. It could be a long process to fully heal this area of your body. But as long as you take steps to get better, you should see improvement. Try to stay as healthy as possible, and eliminate the sources of your pain.
See your spine surgeon if your back pain doesn’t subside after two weeks of home treatment. Seek care immediately if any of the following apply to you:
- history of cancer
- steroid use
- drug or alcohol abuse
Also seek immediate care if you experience:
- new bowel or bladder problems
- pain that’s the result of a fall or other injury
- pain that spreads down either of your legs and extends below the knees
- weakness, numbness, or tingling in either leg
You can prevent quadratus lumborum pain by keeping your body as fit as possible. Stay in shape. Treat pain as soon as it begins so that it doesn’t get any worse.