In Pilates, when we use the term ‘core’ we’re referring to the group of muscles which are responsible for stabilising the spine. One of those muscles is the Quadratus Lumborum, or QL for short, and if you suffer with lower back pain (and it’s estimated that 28 million Brits live with chronic back pain), it’s possible that your QL isn’t functioning as it should.
Your QL are deep muscles situated either side of your spine in your lower back. The muscle originates at the iliac crest (top of the pelvis) and inserts onto the 12th rib and L1-4 vertebrae.
What does it do?
It’s actions involve lateral flexion (side bend) of the trunk, extending the lower back and also during respiration when it stabilises or moves the lowest rib.
The QL muscles are major stabilisers of the lower back and when one or both aren’t functioning properly can cause pain in the lower back, hips, thighs, buttocks and waist. If the muscle goes into spasm then any type of movement can be painful – even sitting or lying down.
There are many things that can cause QL dysfunction. Not using proper technique to lift heavy objects is often a cause of lower back pain but simple behavioural habits such as sitting with your legs crossed, always carrying your bag on the same shoulder or a baby/child on one hip.
Of course I can’t say for certain that your lower back pain is due to an issue with your QL – sometimes we never get to the root cause of back pain – but if I suspect that the QL might be in spasm, this is one exercise that I use to help myself and my clients release it.
If you try this exercise and it doesn’t feel right then please stop! Mobilising restricted muscles and soft tissue can be uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be painful so do use common sense!
This article is not intended as medical advice, it’s for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing back pain or health related issues, please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.