With our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, people are experiencing a wide variety of back problems and pain, particularly in the area of the lower back. Back pain can result from poor seating, improper posture, inactivity and other factors, and can be anywhere from mildly inconvenient to completely debilitating. One of the most common causes of lower back pain is a disorder known as quadratus lumborum syndrome.
The quadratus lumborum is a muscle located in the lower back. It is connected to the ribs, spine and pelvis, and when it contracts too much or too frequently, it causes hip elevation, and pain in the back, hips, and buttocks. Because the quadratus lumborum is part of the muscles which are responsible for movement of the spinal column, an injury to this muscle can result in restricted mobility and pain with a variety of movements.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell when a muscle has been strained. Sometimes, the pain is instant, and may be severe enough that the injured person is aware of the injury the moment it occurs. Other times, there are no outward symptoms right away, just a steady pain that grows over the course of a few days. Those with muscle strains in the quadratus lumborum (or other back muscles) will frequently experience spasms or cramps, and although they tend to be unpleasant, they indicate that the back is in the process of healing itself.
As with any other muscle injury, inflammation and a feeling of warmth in the area are frequently associated with quadratus lumborum syndrome. When a muscle is strained, the body’s response is to increase blood flow to the area, thereby hastening the healing process. Swelling in the area of the muscle is an indication that there is fluid buildup in the surrounding tissue, and the muscle may be prone to further injury; therefore, any muscle injury accompanied by swelling must be treated with great care.
When you are in extreme pain it’s best to rest and ice the areas of pain. Remember to ice in 20 minute increments and not directly on the skin to prevent tissue and nerve damage. Once the pain subsides and is no longer inflamed, you may do a combination of ice, heat, and soft tissue work. Ice will decrease tissue inflammation and numb the pain sensors in the area. A hot compress relaxes the muscle and increases blood flow, helping to encourage the body’s natural healing process. Soft tissue work such as massage and tension-release work with a lacrosse ball and foam roller in the following areas: lower back, butt, and side hip region will help at relieving the muscle ache. As always, it’s crucial to see a doctor if the pain is severe, or if symptoms don’t subside within a few days.
There are various stretching exercises that can help with the pain of quadratus lumborum syndrome. One common stretch is to sit on the floor with one leg extended out with the other folded in, and then bending sideways over to the outstretched leg with the opposite arm bending sideways trying to reach for the opposite foot. You can also laydown sideways on the edge a bed, with the top leg hanging off the bed behind you with the same top arm stretched out over the head.
Once you are able to move without pain you may do strengthening exercises for the quadratus lumborum along with the core muscles which include the back, abdominal, and gluteus region. A good QL exercise is the hip hike shown here. Pilates exercises also help in strengthening and stretching this region of the body. Lastly seek out the help of a personal trainer of physical therapist for help in learning how to prevent more muscle injury.