The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (2023)

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (1)

Tight quadratus lumborum muscles can cause lower-back pain, but stretching and strengthening them can help relieve pain and improve your flexibility.

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If you've got lower-back stiffness, it's probably has to do with a pair of core muscles called the quadratus lumborum (QL). The QL muscles run down the sides of your spine in your lower back and connect your pelvis to your spine and your last rib.


And for muscles you've probably never heard of, they do some pretty important jobs: Not only do you use your QL muscles to sit, stand and walk upright, but they also stabilize your pelvis and play a part in breathing, says Winnie Yu. PT, DPT, CPT, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York.

Your QL muscles work together with your abs and hips to transfer forces between your upper and lower body, according to the National Council on Strength & Fitness. So when they're too tight, you're in trouble. Tense QL muscles can prompt pain, make everyday tasks feel more tedious and affect your ability to make the most out of your workouts.


But you don't have to let tight QL muscles mess with your quality of life. Luckily, incorporating QL exercises and stretches into your daily routine can improve flexibility and alleviate aches and pains in your lower back.


Lower back pain can have many causes. While developing a strong core is always a good thing, be sure to speak with your doctor or physical therapist before doing any exercises for your back pain. Some quadratus lumborum exercises may be contraindicated in certain situations.

8 Quadratus Lumborum Stretches and Exercises

Both QL exercises and stretches are important parts of building a healthy lower back. Strong muscles help support the spine, while flexible muscles enable better movement, so make sure to include both in your workout routine.


The QL stretches (courtesy of Yu) and quadratus lumborum exercises below will help you engage and lengthen stiff side muscles, release lower-back tension and strengthen your core. By doing these QL-strengthening movements every day, you'll build core stability and keep your lumbar region loose and limber, reducing your risk of pain or injury.

Move 1: Seated Side Reach With Knee Anchor

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (2)

(Video) Top 5 QL Stretches (Quadratus Lumborum) - Ask Doctor Jo

Activity Stretching

  1. Sit on the floor with your left leg straight and your right knee bent.
  2. Grab your right knee with your left hand, anchoring yourself, and slowly reach overhead toward the left side with your right arm.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds and do slow, deep breaths, aiming to sink deeper into the side stretch with every exhale.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Move 2: Modified Extended Side Angle Pose

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (3)

Activity Stretching

  1. Start in a low lunge position with your left foot forward.
  2. Place both hands on the floor on either side of your left foot.
  3. On an exhale, lift your right arm off the floor toward the ceiling as you rotate your trunk and pelvis toward the right.
  4. Reach long through your right arm to an overhead position to feel the lengthening through your right side.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

“This pose, similar to the ​Utthita Parsvakonasana​ in yoga, is a more advanced stretch for the quadratus lumborum,” Yu says. “By being in a rotated lunge position, you will also target thoracic (upper back) mobility as well as lengthening of the inner thigh and groin muscles.”

If you are unable to place your hands on the floor, Yu suggests resting your elbow on your front thigh as an alternative.

Move 3: Side-Lying Dynamic Quadratus Lumborum Stretch

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (4)

Activity Stretching

(Video) Back Pain? Try Stretching Your Quadratus Lumborum (7 Ways)

  1. Sit with both knees bent.
  2. Place your left hand to your side, and swing both legs toward the right.
  3. Lower down to your left elbow to achieve a left-side lying position.
  4. Reach with your right arm overhead while letting your head relax down toward the floor. Simultaneously lengthen your right hip toward your feet for a deeper side stretch.
  5. Hold for a moment at the end range, then engage your core muscles to help bring you back to the center and repeat.
  6. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch to the opposite side.

“This dynamic quadratus lumborum stretch can be a great option for those that wake up with morning stiffness or feel tight after a long bout of sitting,” Yu says.

It’s also an excellent exercise to add to a warm-up. That’s because the dynamic movement brings more blood flow, and therefore oxygen, to the surrounding muscles and increases muscle temperature, Yu says. Activating these muscles before exercising helps to reduce your risk of injury during physical activity, she adds.

Move 4: Standing Quadratus Lumborum Stretch

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (5)

Activity Stretching

  1. Stand approximately 2 to 3 feet away from a wall so that you're standing perpendicular to it.
  2. Reach both hands overhead toward the wall.
  3. Gently push your hips away from the wall to feel a deeper stretch along the outside of your trunk.
  4. If you’re able, cross your outside leg over the other (toward the wall) and push your hips farther away from the wall for a deeper stretch.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Yu loves to do this move after a long stretch of sitting or standing to loosen stiff side-body muscles. All you need is a door, wall or flat surface to perform this stretch, and it can be done anytime or anywhere, she says. “You can add this to your work break, exercise cooldown or daily routine.”

Move 5: Glute Bridge

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (6)

Activity Body-Weight Workout

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms by your sides on the floor.
  2. Tucking in your pelvis to brace your core, press through your feet to lift your hips until they are in line with your knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
  3. Hold the position for three deep breaths, then release.

This QL-strengthening exercise helps to open up your hips while targeting your glutes, hamstrings, and core. By working your overall core, you'll take the load off your lower back and reduce pain.

(Video) Low Back Pain in One Side? Quadratus Lumborum Pain and Tightness Program Fix!

Move 6: Plank

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (7)

Activity Body-Weight Workout

1. Start in a quadruped position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips over your knees.

2. Brace your core, lift your hips and extend your legs long behind you. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Squeeze your glutes and quads to engage your lower body.

3. Aim to hold this position for 30 seconds, then release.

A high plank forces you to recruit the muscles in your entire body, including your QL. This QL exercise trains core and pelvic stability, which is necessary when doing sports or daily activities that involve balance.

Move 7: Superman

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (8)

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended above your head.
  2. Brace your core and lift your head, arms and legs off the floor a few inches. Keep your arms and legs straight and your upper arms in line with your ears.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds, then release.

The superman exercise strengthens your lower back and core, helping you build more stability and reducing back pain. It also works to improve your posture by stretching your upper back and shoulders, and opening your chest.

Move 8: Side Plank

The 8 Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises and Stretches for Reducing Lower Back Pain | (9)

(Video) Quadratus Lumborum Stretch (DO’S AND DON’TS!)

Activity Body-Weight Workout

1. Lie on your right side and stack your right hip directly on top of your left. Place your right forearm on the ground, making sure that your elbow is right under your shoulder.

2. Keeping your hips and shoulders square, lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a diagonal line from head to feet. You should feel your right obliques engaged.

3. Aim to hold for 30 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Exercises that target your obliques — the muscles along the sides of your torso — will also work the QL.

What Causes Tightness and Pain in the Quadratus Lumborum?

Like any other muscle, overuse, stress and strain can cause discomfort in the QL muscles. Poor posture can also put stress on these muscles.


"After prolonged bouts of sitting or repetitive lifting, turning or twisting, this muscle, along with some other hip muscles, may feel tight and restricted," Yu says.

The quadratus lumborum can also become overactive to provide stability in your lower back when the surrounding lumbar and pelvic muscles are weak, Yu says. In other words, the QL muscles will compensate for other muscles that aren't functioning properly. But over time, this compensatory action can lead to tension, strain or pain.


What's more, "back pain injuries, such as herniated discs or inflamed musculature in the lower spine, can also contribute to abnormal firing and nerve conduction to the quadratus lumborum muscle," Yu adds.

In addition to stretching the QL muscles daily, strengthening the other postural muscles can also be very helpful to maintain proper balance and alignment, Yu says.

Related Reading

The 8 Best Dynamic Hip Stretches to Loosen Tight Muscles and Improve Your Mobility


What exercise works the quadratus Lumborum? ›

Extend the leg out in front of you, allowing the weight of the body to even out and straighten the side of the torso. Stretch the quadratus lumborum by reaching your arm overhead and bend the trunk away from the side.

How do you get rid of Quadratus Lumborum pain? ›

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.

How do you loosen tight quadratus Lumborum? ›

Sit cross-legged on the floor, sitting up straight as possible. Raise your right arm and reach it over to your left side. Lean your body to the left, feeling the stretch on the right side. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

What makes QL pain worse? ›

Although the discomfort usually occurs at rest, it can get worse with movement. Lying, walking, standing, and rolling may aggravate the pain. Sharp pain may also be felt when sneezing or coughing. Quadratus lumborum pain can even interfere with daily activities such as walking and sitting.

How should I sleep with quadratus lumborum pain? ›

The best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your side with a partial bend in the knees7. Keeping the knees bent helps balance the body and reduces pressure on the lumbar spine. Many people find it helpful to put a small pillow between their knees to make this position more comfortable.

Where is quadratus lumborum pain felt? ›

Quadratus lumborum pain involves discomfort in the muscle that is located deep in the lower back on both sides of the spine. The quadratus lumborum muscle starts at the pelvis and runs up to the lowest rib. It plays an essential role in stabilizing the pelvis when a person is upright.

What is the antagonist muscle to the quadratus lumborum? ›

Thus, a tight QL may be another hidden cause of low back pain (Janda 1987). When the hip adductors are tight or hypertonic, their antagonist (gluteus medius) may experience reciprocal inhibition.

Can you massage the quadratus lumborum? ›

The QL muscle is fairly deep but can be accessed just to the side of the long spinal erectors. Due to all the attachments on the ribs, pelvis, and spine, its important to perform QL massage glides in upward and downward strokes, as well as compress the attachment points directly to cover the muscle thoroughly.

Which type of poses will best stretch the quadratus lumborum? ›

Release Your Lower Back: 5 Yoga Poses to Stretch Your Quadratus Lumborum
  1. Wall Arm Press to Forward Fold. The QLs contract in extension and hyper-extension poses, so forward bending helps stretch them out. ...
  2. Gate Pose. ...
  3. Triangle Pose and Revolved Triangle Pose. ...
  4. Child's Pose with Arm Stretch. ...
  5. Eagle Legs Side Twist.
30 Mar 2022

What does a tight QL feel like? ›

QL pain can be described as a dull, aching pain which can become sharp at times from specific movements. Sometimes considered “the joker” of lower back pain, it is often overlooked as the main cause of the pain, with other lower back structures taking the blame.

Is walking good for QL? ›

The QL (quadratus lumborum) walk has been an instrumental movement in balancing my hips and stabilizing my core after my low back incident in July. I love this exercise because it's not a high intensity exercise.

Can tight quadratus lumborum cause sciatica? ›

Your quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle might be the problem, and you may not even know it. The QL plays a prominent role in chronic lower back pain as well, becoming a key player in the subsequent onset of sciatica symptoms and hip pain.

Can tight hips cause QL pain? ›

If you are someone who has tight hips and glutes that are not being worked to their full potential, then you are most likely afflicted with an overly tight QL. When the glutes are tight from disuse, the QL will compensate by becoming the prime mover of the hip joint.

What is the best sitting position for lower back pain? ›

When seated, keep these tips in mind:
  • Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Keep your knees at or below the level of your hips. ...
  • Adjust your chair to support your back or place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back.

What nerve supplies the quadratus lumborum? ›

Quadratus lumborum is innervated by the subcostal nerve (T12) and anterior rami of spinal nerves L1-L4.

What nerves are blocked with QL block? ›

Ultrasound-guided quadratus lumborum block is a recently described fascial plane block where local anesthetic is injected adjacent to the quadratus lumborum muscle with the goal of anesthetizing the thoracolumbar nerves.

Can a chiropractor help with quadratus lumborum? ›

There are a variety of methods we can utilize accomplish this. Chiropractic Adjustment to the joints that the QL attaches to, Lower Thoracic, Lumbar and Pelvis. Resetting and releasing the pressure in a joint neurologically releases and relaxes the tension in the muscles that attach to those joints.

How do I engage my quadratus lumborum? ›

6. Pelvic tilt
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet in toward your hips.
  2. Relax your upper body and tuck your chin in slightly.
  3. Engage your core as you press the small of your back into the floor.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax for a few breaths.
  5. Repeat 8–15 times.

Do side planks work quadratus lumborum? ›

Side planks are great for the lateral stabilizers or side stabilizers of the spine, and a great core workout. The primary muscle group targeted is the QL muscle or quadratus lumborum, which is important to strengthen for everyone, but especially for people with poor posture or who sit all day.

What is the main function of the quadratus lumborum? ›

Quadratus Lumborum fixes the 12th rib to stabilize diaphragm attachments during inspiration. Lateral flexes the vertebral column. Extends lumbar vertebrae. It forms with the contralateral Tensor fascia lata and Gluteus medius a lateral myofascial sling which aims to maintain frontal plane stability of the pelvis.

What causes tight quadratus lumborum? ›

Poor posture when standing or sitting can place added stress on the quadratus lumborum and lead to pain. Slouching, leaning to one side, or sitting without back support can cause the muscle to become sore and tight.


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