Today’s Solutions: June 06, 2023

If lower back pain has been plaguing you, no matter what you try to do to relieve it, then we may just have the perfect stretch that will help bid lower back pain farewell.

“One of the sneakiest muscles that no one talks about enough is the quadratus lumborum, known as ‘the QL,’” says injury prevention specialist and athletic trainer Liz Letchford, Ph.D., ATC. “The muscle functions to hike the hip, as well as provide stability between the ribcage and the pelvis.”

The muscle is actually a deep abdominal muscle that is found on either side of the lumbar spine, otherwise known as your low back. According to Dr. Letchford, this hard-to-reach band of muscle fibers can potentially contribute to back pain for a multitude of reasons. Some of these reasons include poor posture, sitting without sufficient support, and a weak core, all of which put stress and strain on the QL and can result in an achy low back.

To address a stressed QL, the most recommended course of action is to visit your physical therapist or movement specialist, especially if you suspect you may be injured. Another option is to start with a gentle stretch, though it’s important to get the okay from a professional to ensure that you won’t injure yourself further if you try to stretch on your own with improper form.

“The QL is likely tight because the pelvic musculature isn’t working optimally,” says Dr. Letchford. “Stretching may provide relief in the short term, but the best approach would be to work with a movement specialist to determine where you may be compensating.”

Try this gentle stretch (if you get the okay from a PT)
  1. Start by standing in a door frame
  2. Determine the side that’s causing the pain (if both, you can repeat on both sides)
    3. Using the arm on the pain-free side (or whichever side you start on), place your hand on the door frame near you for support. Stabilize with your leg on the same side, keeping the weight in that foot.
    4. Take the arm on the sore side, stretch it up and reach over your head to the door frame on the opposite side (up and over).
    5. Step with the foot on the sore side crossed behind your opposite, stable leg.
    6. Stretch gently for a few seconds, stopping if there’s pain.

Another suggested treatment from Dr. Letchford for sore and tight muscles is a kind of myofascial release using a ball. While laying on your back on a yoga mat, place the ball under the muscle to release built-up tension and break up blocked-up tissue. However, you should be careful while doing this as “the QL attaches to the twelfth rib, which is where the kidneys are located,” so you should be extra gentle to protect your kidneys.

Keep in mind that there could be several reasons for back pain, so it’s of utmost importance to consult a professional before engaging in any kind of treatment.

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