12 ways to do a Quadratus Lumborum stretch

“What is the best Quadratus Lumborum stretch?
(Short cut: Click here to go straight to the stretches!)

The Quadratus Lumborum (or QL for short) is a muscle that is located on both sides of the lumbar spine.

(… and if you have ever had any lower back pain, it is safe to assume that this muscle was probably involved in one way or another!)

What does it attach to?

  • 12th rib
  • Tranverse processes L1-4
  • Posterior iliac crest
  • Iliolumbar ligament

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What does the Quadratus lumborum do?

The main action of the Quadratus Lumborum is to:

a) extend the lumbar spine,

b) side bend the lumbar spine and

c) tilt the pelvis.

Unfortunately, with the growing number of people with sub-optimal posture, this muscle commonly becomes tight and needs to be stretched.

What causes a tight Quadratus Lumborum?

… It’s your posture!

Think about how you stand, sit and sleep:

Is your posture causing a tight Quadratus Lumborum?

Postures related to Quadratus Lumborum tightness:

a) Anterior pelvic tilt 

anterior pelvic tilt

b) Leaning to one side

c) Lateral pelvic tilt

lateral pelvic tilt

d) Side lie


12 ways to do a Quadratus lumborum stretch


Image courtesy of Janpen04081986 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


READ THIS:

– Hold each stretch for at least 2 minutes.

– Make sure you can FEEL the stretch. If you can’t feel the Quadratus lumborum stretch, then you are probably not stretching it!

– You do NOT have to do all of the stretches. Pick ONE! …and do it well.


Before starting a Quadratus Lumborum stretch…

I strongly recommend releasing the muscle with a massage ball.

Why?… This will help relax the tight muscle and can make your stretching more effective.

Ball release:

Instructions

  • Locate the target muscle.
  • Place a massage ball directly onto the Quadratus lumborum muscle.
  • Apply your body weight on top of the ball.
  • Roll your body over the entire length of the muscle.
  • Aim for 2 minutes each side.

I have divided these stretches into 3 different levels of intensity (light, moderate, strong).

(Note: If you have lower back issues, start on light stretches and progress as appropriate.)

Light stretch

1. Knee to chest

lower back stretch

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Bring your knees up and hug your knees towards your chest.
  • Be sure to keep your legs completely relaxed.
    • (The arms should be doing all of the work.)
  • Gently hug your knees towards your chest.
  • Target area: Lower Quadratus Lumborum

2. Child’s pose

Instructions:

  • Start in a crawling position.
  • Sit on your completely bent legs.
    • Bring your buttocks to the back of your ankles.
  • Stretch out both arms and place them in front of you.
  • Aim to round your lower back as much as possible.
    • Tuck your tail bone underneath you.
  • To stretch the left side, reach out both arms to the opposite right side. (and vice versa)
  • Target area: Lower Quadratus Lumborum

3. Side tilt (standing)

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, place your left hand on left hip.
  • Push your hip towards the right.
  • Whilst reaching over to the left with your right hand, tilt your torso to the left.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right side.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper Quadratus Lumborum

4. Side tilt (sitting)

Instructions:

  • Sit crossed leg on the floor.
  • Pin and maintain your right leg down.
  • Reach over to the left side with your right arm.
  • Feel the stretch on the right side.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Target area: Upper Quadratus Lumborum

Moderate stretch

5. Side lie on exercise ball

Instructions:

  • Lie on your side on an exercise ball.
  • Keep your feet near a wall to maintain balance.
  • Reach over with the arm on the upper side.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the upper side.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper and Lower Quadratus Lumborum

6. Side lie on bed

Instructions:

  • Lie on your side on the bed.
  • Allow for your upper leg to hang off the side.
    • (Keep lower leg on bed)
  • Reach over with the upper arm and hold onto something stationary to keep you pinned down.
  • Relax your upper leg and allow gravity to pull you into the stretch.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the upper side.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Lower Quadratus Lumborum

7. Wall lean

Instructions:

  • Place your right forearm onto the wall.
  • Position your legs away from the wall.
  • Lean the right side of your body onto the wall.
    • Aim to have the side of your mid section completely in contact with the wall. (as opposed to just your hip)
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the side closer to the wall.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper Quadratus Lumborum

8. “Sexy pose”

ql stretch

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your side.
  • Prop your upper body onto your forearm.
  • Whilst keeping your pelvis pinned to the ground, try to push your torso as up right as possible.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the upper Quadratus Lumborum on the side closest to the floor.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper Quadratus Lumborum

9. Pelvic side tilt

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, lean all the way over to your right side.
  • Allow your left leg to lift and dangle.
    • Keep it relaxed!
  • Allow gravity to pull your left leg down.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the left side.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Lower Quadratus Lumborum

Strong stretch

10. Wall stretch

quadratus lumborum stretch

Instructions:

  • Assume the position above.
  • Whilst holding onto the door frame, let your upper arm take the weight of your body.
    • “Let your body hang”
  • Whilst anchoring your legs as shown, aim to bend your mid section as much as possible.
    • Use your body weight to sink into the stretch
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper/Lower Quadratus Lumborum

11. “Sexy pose” (elevated)

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your side.
  • Prop your forearm onto a chair.
  • Whilst keeping your pelvis pinned to the ground, try to push your torso as up right as possible.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper Quadratus Lumborum

12. Side bend (with wide stance)

Instructions:

  • Start with your feet wide apart with your left foot turned out to the side.
  • With arms outstretched, start to bend all the way to your left side.
  • Aim to reach your upper arm as far to the left as possible.
  • Keep your body in line with your left leg.
    • Do not rotate your body.
  • Keep your legs fairly straight.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Target area: Upper Quadratus Lumborum


Conclusion

By now, you should have 12 different ways to do a Quadratus lumborum stretch!

You do NOT have to do ALL of them.

Pick the ONE that gives you the best stretch… and do it regularly!


What to do next…

1. Any questions?… Leave me a comment down below.

2. Come join me on the Facebook page. Let’s keep in touch!

3. Start doing the exercises!

About

I am a physiotherapist who has personally experienced the pain as a result of bad posture. I would like to offer you some of the solutions that I and my patients have greatly benefited from.

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49 thoughts on “12 ways to do a Quadratus Lumborum stretch

  1. Mark

    A really good NHS physio recently identified I have SIJ dysfunction and weak piriformis on right side did a load of exercises he gave me and improved. When I went back he identified my QL was tight and gave me a stretch and said feel free to go on the internet and find any others that work better. Anyway I came across your website just did of your ‘strong’ stretches for the full 2 minutes…wow feeling like a new bloke thank you very much. I’ll be back soon.

  2. Mark, in your instructions for QL you mention doing each for 2 minutes, but you don’t mention how many times a day, or every day, or for how many weeks? I’m just looking for some kind of time schedule. I am 80 and reasonably active in sports while younger, but not so much as I got older. I have had pain in my lower back, right hip and right leg for years and it has been progressively worst as times goes on. 16 weeks ago I fell hard backwards on my buttocks. It seemed like my whole frame just condensed itself. Very very painful. Got xrays and Doctor said it might take 8 to 12 weeks. After 14 weeks I started looking into it further and found that the QL might be my problem. Thanks for any comment you might have for me.
    Ron

    1. Hey Ron,

      You can start with 3 x 2 minute stretches every day and see how your body responds.

      From here – you can increase/decrease frequency depending on how you are feeling.

      More the merrier, though!

      Mark

  3. Hi Mark,

    I’ve just came across your website- the content is fantastic, well done and thank you!

    I have had chronic back trouble for the past 14 years- usually it flares up in my bottom ride side of my back. It’s like a lightning pain that strikes and when it does I can barely move without excruciating pain. I get a lateral tilt to the left (moving away from the pain), I dare not sneeze or cough hard and can’t move from side to side in bed. When it isn’t sore it feels like my right leg is longer than the left and have limited mobility while trying to laterally bend to the right.

    After a recent bout I did some intensive research to try locate the muscle causing it, that’s when I landed on the QL muscle. Would you say that my symptoms tie in with that muscle?

    I have had scans, x rays, loads of physio but nothing has helped.

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

  4. Hi Mark,
    I have been reading your articles, very interesting, thank you. Ever since I starting squatting heavy, just over two years ago, I have noticed my right hip has a slight lateral tilt as I stand up from the squat. Recently I have been having trouble with nasty trigger points in the left glutes, mainly the glute medius, which have been really painful when trying to squat. After working on these triggers and almost getting rid of them I got back to squatting heavy only to pull my left adductor muscles (I think it is a pull as the entire thigh was solid, slightly swollen and very painful when bending the knee. After about 5 days a massive bruise appeared along the adductors, but I did not experience any popping sensation or pain whilst squatting these symptoms appeared the next day after benching). Unfortunately, a muscle pull did not occur to me at first so I was massaging an foam rolling the leg which probably didn’t help and only stopped once the bruise occurred.
    I am now thinking all these problems are due to the lateral hip tilt on the right which means the left leg was taking most of the 145kg weight when I was squatting causing the in jury. Could it be a tight QL, resulting in a weak gluteus medius on the right side which is causing my problems?
    Any advice you can give would be great as its awful going to the gym and not being able to squat!
    Thank you, Rebecca

  5. Hi mark,
    I have problem in which my right pelvic become longer and when i walk my left short leg feel rotated, i m not understanding which kind of pelvic tilt i have. I’m facing so much problem.
    If you can suggest me personally, i m very thankful to you.
    Can i know your contact number.

  6. Hi Mark! I have a slightly rotated pelvis. My left ql and tfl are super tight and my left glute med id inactive. Ive noticed that my QL tightness is inhibiting my from strengthening my obliques and glute med on that side (which are dar weaker than the right side.) Its as if I have anterior pelvic tilt on onky my left. Should I be stretching my QL on the left before strengthening my glute medius and obliques? Any other advice? I’m a weightlifter, so I really hope these exercises work. Thanks so much!

  7. Hi Mark,

    First, thank you for all the great information that you provide on this website!

    I have issues with both of my QLs, which I believe are the main cause of my back pain. Posture-wise, my pelvis is slightly in front of my ankles and I have a bit of APT. I experience a lot of tightness when bending forward (going into lumbar flexion) or pulling my pelvis back.

    When I do a sidebend, I actually have a lot of pain-free range if I allow my spine to bend laterally. However, if I keep my spine more neutral and just “shift” my upper body to the side, I experience an intense and tender feeling stretch on the QL, all the way from my 12th rib to the back of my pelvis. After I stretch both sides, my lumbar flexion range is improved temporarily. On the other hand, doing knee-to-chest or child’s pose does not help, and even makes me tighter sometimes. Stretches #9 (pelvic side tilt) and #12 (wide stance) are the most helpful.

    I did the Thomas test and was negative on iliopsoas/TFL and borderline positive on rectus femoris. I have been told in the past by a couple of PTs that my psoas was the likely cause, but based on what I have described, does it sound like my QLs are the problem instead?

  8. Hi Mark,

    First, thank you for all the great information that you provide on this website!

    I have issues with both of my QLs, which I believe are the main cause of my back pain. Posture-wise, my pelvis is slightly in front of my ankles and I have a bit of APT. I experience a lot of tightness when bending forward (going into lumbar flexion) or pulling my pelvis back.

    When I do a sidebend, I actually have a lot of pain-free range if I allow my spine to bend laterally. However, if I keep my spine more neutral and just “shift” my upper body to the side, I experience an intense and tender feeling stretch on the QL, all the way from my 12th rib to the back of my pelvis. After I stretch both sides, my lumbar flexion range is improved temporarily. On the other hand, doing knee-to-chest or child’s pose does not help, and even makes me tighter sometimes. Stretches #9 (pelvic side tilt) and #12 (wide stance) are the most helpful.

    I did the Thomas test and was negative on iliopsoas/TFL and borderline positive on rectus femoris. I have been told in the past by a couple of PTs that my psoas was the likely cause, but based on what I have described, does it sound like my QLs are the problem instead?

    1. Hi Eli,

      Sounds like your QLs are very tight. (and possibly more so the upper fibres)

      Tight QLs would also explain difficulty with forward bending and pulling the pelvis backwards.

      What does the rest of your posture look like?

      Mark

      1. Hi Mark,

        My posture doesn’t fit into any of the common patterns, so I will try to give you the relevant details from my last posture assessment. I mentioned that my hips are forward of my ankles, but I do not have any of the other patterns associated with swayback posture. I do not have forward head or thoracic kyphosis. I was told that both of my humerus bones sit forward in the shoulder socket, but my resting scapula position is good. If I measure the angle between my ASIS and PSIS, it is about 15 degrees forward from horizontal, which indicates some APT. However, my lumbar curve is also slightly flattened, which indicates that opposite of APT. As far as I can tell, I do not have any lateral pelvic tilt.

        As for my QLs themselves, they have been problematic for about 4 years. Originally, my right QL was much worse than my left. After a few years of working on the right side, my left side started to develop symptoms about a year ago. Currently, it feels like the upper fibers are tighter on the right side, while the lower fibers are tighter on the left side. Stretching or working on them with a tennis/lacross ball only gives me temporary relief. Long periods of standing and walking or short periods of bending forward in a hip hinge causes the tightness to return. Furthermore, after stretching them, it is painful to contract them again for a few contract/relax cycles.

        Based on all the information that I have, I believe that they are tight and weak from being overactive. My glutes and TvA are probably not firing correctly, leading my QLs to pick up the slack. For the past couple of weeks, I have been doing side planks, farmer’s walks and suitcase carries to improve my core stability, in addition to stretching. It has helped a little, but again, the relief is temporary. As soon as I do any work that requires QL activation (bending forward, working with any load in front of me, etc), they tighten up again.

        Is my self-diagnosis on the right track, or do you feel that there is something else causing my QLs to be tight? If it is indeed overactivity, how do I train my body not to use them so much? And lastly, is my current plan (stretching and improving core stability) a good one, or would you recommend a different course?

  9. Thank you so much for these stretches!!! With the Knee-to-Chest stretch, what do you mean when you say to “gently rock your knees towards your chest?” Rock your whole body back and forth or hold the position?

    When is the best time to do this exercise? When I am experiencing pain? And how many times a day?

    1. Hi Cathy!

      “Gently rock your knees towards your chest”

      What this basically means: As you lie down on your back, hug both knees to the chest. In this position, do small oscillations/bouncy movements with your knees to the chest. The movement should be powered by your arm strength as your legs should be completely relaxed.

      You can do this anytime! And as many times throughout the day.

      Mark

  10. hi Mark,
    again I need some help from you. As I already wrote you about the lateralisation of patella in my left knee and by following your exercises for knee valgus I have improved a lot in my knee. Thanks a ton for that. But a new problem has started .Even though im doing the exercises for both legs but don’t know why my right leg vmo muscles and quads have started paining which was not there before . I have some pain on right side QL and right butt .when I try to stretch the QL I feel little pain. All this is happening on my right side as if slowly it is getting weaker. I think I have anterior pelvic tilt. But im not able to understand if I have lateral pelvic tilt also. My whole posture is out of whack. I have pain even in upper back. So please tell me what do you think my problem could be as I dont want the same thing to happen with my right knee. So please help me out. Thanks. Forgot to mention that I feel my right hamstring is weaker than left one Thanks

  11. Hi! Thank you for beneficial post.

    I got a question. You said that “Hold each stretch for at least 2 minutes.”

    Does it mean I have to stretch for 2 minutes at once,

    or Can I stretch 4 sets for 30 sec, or 2 sets for 60 sec?

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Ray,

      To be honest – all are fine to do. Just as long you are holding more than 20-30 seconds at a time.

      My personal preference is 2 minutes in one go.

      But do what works for you!

      Mark

  12. Hi! Thank you for a beneficial post first.

    I got a question. You said that “Hold each stretch for at least 2 minutes.”

    It means I have to stretch for 2 minutes at once? I tried, but it was too hard for me.

    Or, can I stretch totally 2 minutes, for example, 4 sets of 30 sec, or 2 sets of 1 min?

    If I do a stretch with several sets like above, is it still beneficial?

    Thank you for your answer in advance.

  13. hi Mark,
    again I need some help from you. As I already wrote you about the lateralisation of patella in my left knee and by following your exercises for knee valgus I have improved a lot in my knee. Thanks a ton for that. But a new problem has started .Even though im doing the exercises for both legs but don’t know why my right leg vmo muscles and quads have started paining which was not there before . I have some pain on right side QL and right butt .when I try to stretch the QL I feel little pain. All this is happening on my right side as if slowly it is getting weaker. I think I have anterior pelvic tilt. But im not able to understand if I have lateral pelvic tilt also. My whole posture is out of whack. I have pain even in upper back. So please tell me what do you think my problem could be as I dont want the same thing to happen with my right knee. So please help me out. Thanks.

  14. Hi Mark,

    I am doing some QL stretches while typing this, and finding them helpful. Mark will QL go into spasm for a thing as simple as stooping the wrong way? In know that about 3 days before onset of spasm I was doing heavy gardening and stooped and pulled very heavily , some very brief but minor discomfort. Then 3 days later a stoop and “bam” felt like a rubber band on stretch had snapped.

    A miserable few days since then , but I think I have isolated it down to my QL muscles. My lumbar spine refuses to flex at all. Even the knees to chest position in supine on bed takes several minutes to achieve.

    I think tight QL have been my problems for years ( I am 47, active, healthy , but have always had a sensation of a tight low back) . I thought hamstrings length was really important, however I think stretch QL is just as important, and in my case , more important.

    How long will a QL spasm last?

    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      Looks like you have a QL that is over active!

      Acute spasms shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to a week to settle. But it really depends!

      Continue with gentle Range of motion exercises such as:(pain-free)
      – knee to chest
      – knees side to side whilst on back
      – pelvic tilts
      – Lumbar side bends/rotations

      I would also consider looking at this post: Lateral pelvic tilt to see if this relates to you.

      Mark

  15. Hi Mark,

    I stumbled on this page while searching for ways to fix the right hip hike I have. I’ve had this problem since I have no idea when and it’s annoying: the right hem of my pants tends to be higher than my left and I feel like my right leg is longer. I don’t feel any back pain whatsoever though, just the annoyance that the right side of my pants hikes higher. I have been following these steps and I have a few questions:

    1. How many times in a week do I have to do the stretches?
    2. What follow-ups should I do if let’s say I do achieve balance with my right QL?

    Again thank you for this and I hope more people will be able to find this page of yours.

  16. Hi Mark,

    I am eternally grateful for all the information. Your passion is apparent as I read all the details…big thank you😀 I have a lateral pelvic right hike and a super tight right QL.

    I will be doing the stretches on your article dedicated to lateral pelvic tilts (life saving article for me: i have a tendency to drop right shoulder, right calf is thicker….the whole thing) but I plan on also doing these stretches here for the right side only because the pain/discomfort level is increasing due to my tight R. QL….two concerns:

    1. Will it be too much as I will be doing extra QL stretches (less quad and glute)…will it affect results?

    2. How do I know when my right QL is approaching balance? I fear overstretching R. QL and crunching L. QL?

    The relief I got from one session is amazing. Is it best to do daily or on alternate days?

    Please keep sharing…I feel so enlightened and in control of my well being. God bless you.

    1. Hello Yasmine,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In regards to your questions:
      1. If your tight right QL is the main issue, you can focus on your QL stretches for now.

      2. Your QL will be in balance once your pelvis is no longer tilting :). However, please note for this, you will likely need to address other issues as well.

      Check out this post: Lateral pelvic tilt

      Mark

  17. Hi Mark –

    I’ve had a pretty inflamed QL on my right side due to a right hip tilt (and tightening a car seat strap). I’ve rested it completely for the past two days (after acupuncture and chiropractor had small short-lived improvements in pain). After turning into a back sleeper, the pain is low- but I feel it waiting to flare up.

    My question is: when can I start stretching and then when can I start strengthening? This has taken over my physical life and is a big drag.

    Thanks for the post!
    CJ

    1. Hey CJ,

      If the pelvic tilt is causing all of your issues, I would recommend check out this:

      Post: How to fix a lateral pelvic tilt

      If pain is the major issue at the moment, wait for the inflammation to settle as exercising can sometimes flare it up.

      Also – try to identify all those activities in your daily life that you know will flare up the back. Try to either not do them at all, or modify them so that it does not hurt.

      Mark

  18. Hi Mark,
    Is there a way to know if it your oblique not your QL is tight? If someone has a tight muscle, it is very difficult to tell. Thanks

  19. Hi, Mark so I feel like I have hyperlordosis lower back/kyphosis of thoracic/forward head…but the problem is exercising is difficult because I am off center as I am confident I have a lateral pelvic tilt like in the pic on quadratus lumborum stretches…only I am going opposite way…could have some rotation not sure..side bending left…my head leans left and possibly kind of back…right shoulder is hiked and likes to shrug up a lot…left shoulder lower…my right hip feels higher than left…pain right side particularly suboccipital region… cant fix the forward head because I cant retract properly because I am off center…pulling between the blades is off center… I can work on my abdominal core but it does not completely rid me of pain as I need to address thoracic and head as well but the minute I start trying to work my thoracic or head I cant control my lower ribs flaring particularly right side…it is like the right side is flaring sideways and over to left…what should one do for this? I have tried A LOT…and I work very hard at trying not to compensate at TL junction. I feel like I am missing something or the exercises need a proper sequence…over a 4 yr span I have done deep neck flexors to no avail…I have pulled all kinds of bands for shoulder work…I have worked my core but not anything that would allow one to get loaded or deal with gravity…as I cant progress to more loaded no matter how hard I try as I lose control somewhere in it all…sometimes without my knowledge until I pay for it in pain a few days later….I am pretty confident it is because this lateral tilt is going unaddressed…when sitting sometimes I can feel my left buttock moving laterally to right underneath me…when this happens my torso sidebends left….but simply sliding opposite doesnt work…can you offer any advice about what is going on and what to do to correct this? Working things just from front to back perspective doesnt seem to be working. Thanks a lot

  20. Hi mark
    Thanks for the blog i am a hairdresser with a bad posture and i have started to do your stretches.
    I think they’re for life so thank you
    Karen

    1. Hey Slade,

      When performing these stretches (… or any exercise for that matter), do not push into any pain.

      All you want is a firm pulling sensation on the side that you are stretching.

      Mark

  21. Hi Mark

    Thank you for the great instruction.
    I have always wondered about the benefits of side bends, especially the half moon pose as taught by Bikram. Are the ligaments along the spine over streched? Is it possible that internal organs are damaged on the compressed side?
    I do this group of poses but I have noticed some chronic tenderness around the floating ribs on my left side.

    Thank You

    Kelly

    1. Hi Kelly!

      Congrats on first comment on this blog post!

      Any variation of side bending stretches will open up one side and close the other.

      It is possible to over stretch muscles and ligaments and squash structures on the closing side.

      Is your QL tight on the left side? This can cause a pinching pain on the 12th rib.

      Mark

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