Breaking Down Quadratus Lumborum
Let’s help you understand the basics of the quadratus lumborum muscle. Where it attaches (its origin and insertion) as well as how and when it contracts (its action).
- Quadratus refers to the muscle having what looks like four distinct sides.
- Lumborum refers to the area of the body, the lumbar area of the spine in particular.
- Quadratus lumborum is often abbreviated as “QL”
Attachments of the Quadratus Lumborum
- Iliac Crest (specifically the top and back part of the pelvis) The bone at the top and back of the pelvis is known as the Ilium.
- Transverse processes (bony parts that stick out to the side of each vertebrae) of lumbar vertebrae – usually just the top four lumbar vertebrae
- The 12th rib (That’s the last rib, also known as a floating rib because it does not attach to the rib cage)
Actions of the Quadratus Lumborum
This muscle has three potential actions:
- To extend the spine as in shalabasana
- To bring the ribs closer to the pelvis on the same side, known as lateral flexion
- It’s often referred to as the “hip hiker” as it can lift the pelvis toward the lower ribs on the same side.
Postures Where This Muscle Contracts
Dhanruasana (see below) requires help from the quadratus lumborum and the paraspinal muscles.
Parighasana (seen below) uses quadratus lumborum to help the paraspinals as well.
Postures Where This Muscle is Lengthened
Note that the left side is getting longer (stretching) while the right side gets shorter (contracting).
In the adjustment below the quadratus lumborum on Marsha’s left side is getting longer. This adjustment accentuates that part of the pose.
Common Problems and Additional Information
This muscle is often associated with back pain, SI joint pain, as well as part of a larger pattern of anatomical dysfunction. I have already written a more detailed article about this muscle. I also discussed it in the larger pattern of psoas and gluteal relationship.
I often associate muscles in this area as part of the “splinting” response from the body when a spinal disc between the vertebrae bulges or herniates. Muscles in the surrounding area tighten or “splint” to protect and prevent further movement in the area.