Using a foam roller can be a great way to release tight QL muscles in the lower back. The right foam roller can target and treat these muscles to relive symptoms. Foam rolling can help improve circulation, provide myofascial release, reduce trigger points and allow for better mobility helping you move freely.
Understanding the Quadratus Lumborum
There are two QL muscles, one on each side of the spine. They travel from the back of your pelvis, up to the lowest rib. These muscles move and stabilise the spine; hitch up your pelvis and hip, and assist in breathing as well as providing general postural support.
They are one of the most common muscles prone to getting tight in the lower back, causing postural imbalances, movement restriction and pain.
How the QL Muscle can cause pain
Tension or spasms in the QL muscles can cause a range if issues. A tight QL muscle can lead to pain or discomfort when breathing, especially on deep breaths, by pulling on the 12th rib effecting rib mechanics.
The QL attaches to the outside of each of the lower five vertebra. If one of the QL muscles get tight it can compress the joints and discs on one side of the spine, which leads to friction and inflammation which can lead to pain.
And of course the muscle its self when contracted or sprained can cause pain signals.
Signs you need to Foam Roll your QL muscle
- It is rare for both the left and right QL muscle to become dysfunctional at the same time, so deep one sided low back ache, especially after sitting for a period of time is a sign one of your QL muscles might be getting tight.
- If you look in the mirror and notice your pelvis is slightly tilted to one side or the other. For example if the left QL gets tight it can cause a side bending motion in the lower spine, pushing the hip and pelvis in the opposite direction.
- Local tenderness to touch. Trigger points can occur in these muscles leading to small areas of tenderness if your press in with your thumb which often radiate down towards your pelvis.
Watch out for your kidneys!
Your kidneys sit in front of the QL muscles and can present pain in a similar area. If you have a:
- Changes to your urinary function
- Feeling very weak or tired
- Feeling sick
Along with low back pain then have a word with your doctor. Foam rolling your QL muscles will not effect your kidneys at all, but if they are inflamed or sore it is best to avoid adding any extra stress to the organs.
How to Foam Roll Your QL Muscle
Due to the deep position of the QL muscles and their proximity to the spine they are not easy muscles to foam roll effectively. In fact I would go as far as saying that the Manta foam roller is possibly the only foam roller truly able to target and treat these muscles.
For effective treatment the best foam rolling technique is to use the manta foam roller on the lower spine as normal, ie spine in the central groove and keeping your chest high, but then you need to be able to tilt your body weight slightly to one side.
By using your body weight and tilting to one side, the central ridge of the foam roller can sink into the QL muscle, much like a sports massage therapist would.
You can either hold and maintain the pressure over the muscle for 30-90 seconds or slowly oscillate or roll over the area. Even though one side will often be tighter, and therefore more tender than the other, always foam roll equally on both sides of the body to maintain balance.
What Does Foam Rolling Do
Foam rolling can bring new blood and oxygen to Trigger Points, helping reduce and treat the painful knots. Using the Manta foam roller can also provide myofascial release, helping contracted muscles release their tension, and allow for improved spinal mobility and pelvic posture.
If you have been suffering with tight QL's for a long time, or spend more hours sitting at a desk, rather than being upright and moving, I would recommend foam rolling these muscles daily to begin with. Gradually, you can reduce the frequency to several times a week to maintain QL health and function, once the back pain and tension has eased.