12 ways to do a Quadratus Lumborum stretch

“What is the best Quadratus Lumborum stretch?

This blog post contains all of the stretches that you will ever need to know.

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

 

Why does it get tight?

… It’s your posture!

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.

Common postures associated with a tight Quadratus Lumborum:

Think about how you stand, sit and sleep: Is your posture causing a tight Quadratus Lumborum?

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

  • Place a massage ball directly below 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 rock your knees towards your chest.

 

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)

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.

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.

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.
  • Repeat on other side.

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 legs and allow gravity to pull you into the stretch.
  • Repeat on other side.

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 your hip)
  • Repeat on other side.

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.
  • Repeat on other side.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 


Now you have 12 different ways to do a Quadratus lumborum stretch!

Like I said – You do NOT have to do ALL of them.

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

… Any questions?

Feel free to leave a comment and I will reply to you.

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

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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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