Ever experienced dull or sharp pain in the back?
You could have gone to see a Physical Therapist and they tell you that your QL is tight. Typically when I say this to my patients it just comes out without much thought, probably in the assumption that the patient knows what I am talking about or even sub consciously. There is either a silence that follow; an expectation to explain what I am talking about or a direct question.
The pair of QL (Quadratus Lumborum) muscles is located at the rear of the abdominal wall and is connected between the inside of the pelvis and the lower vertebrae. The QL comes into play in the function and stability of your spine. It assists in forward-backward and side-to-side flexion and extension as well as assisting the diaphragm during inhalation.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can at times affect the stabilizer muscles of the vertebrae, effectively shutting them off. When these muscles no longer aide in the support of the spine and lower back, then the QL takes up the slack. A job it’s not meant to do!
Over time, overuse of the QL results in fatiguing the muscles, tightness and adhesions. This can be compounded by a rounded posture in the upper back (which often accompanies our sitting habit) that causes the QL and its surrounding muscles to work even harder in a seated and standing position. This overuse and compensation mechanism can cause one to have lower back pain or even hip pain.
Lower Back Up
The lower back pain is often described as a deep aching pain, but it may also be felt as sharp and acute, depending on the cause. Although the discomfort often occurs at rest, it may become worse with movement. Walking, standing, and rolling over in bed may aggravate the pain.
Sharp pain may also be felt when sneezing or coughing. It can even interfere with doing everyday activities, such as walking and sitting.
This pain may result to be chronic, which means it is long-lasting. Long-term pain often interferes with a person’s quality of life and well-being as well as affecting them physically.
What would cause this?
- Overuse, stress and strain
- Sitting for long periods
- Poor posture resulting from weak back muscles and repetitive motions
- Accidents /Trauma
- Unequal leg length
All of these factors can make you twist, bend, or lift improperly, which creates more tension. It can also lead to your QL becoming too tight if it has to overcompensate to stabilize your spine and pelvis. Pain in this area can also be due to accidents and unequal leg lengths.
Prevention is the way to go
Following some simple steps may prevent pain or help reduce discomfort if pain develops. These include:
- practicing good posture when sitting and standing
- using a lumbar support pillow when sitting
- lifting objects bending at the knees not the waist
- maintaining a healthy weight
- taking frequent breaks when sitting to prevent stiffness
- avoiding sleeping on only one side
The outlook of quadratus lumborum pain or tightness varies based on its severity. The pain can often be managed successfully, especially if treated early when symptoms first begin.
In some cases, it can be a lengthy process to heal the muscle. However, using a combination of treatments can lead to an improvement in symptoms for most people.
Your Physical Therapist can be of help with this!