Quadratus lumborum (QL) trigger points refer to tight spots in what is usually the main culprit for low back pain while sleeping. If you wake up in the morning with tight back muscles around your lower back that tend to relieve as you move around a little bit, this is likely the muscle causing you grief. In today’s article, we are going to discuss what the QL muscle is, why it tightens up every night, how to make one small sleeping position change to fix it, and how you can massage it to help it release.
What is the QL and where is it?
The QL is a muscle located in the lower back region. It’s one of the deeper muscles in the back and is responsible for a lot of important movements.
The QL muscle is located on either side of the spine, between the last rib and the top of the hip bone. It’s a long, thin muscle that runs vertically along the sides of the lower back. It has two main functions: it helps to stabilize the spine and it also helps with hip and trunk movements.
When it comes to stabilizing the spine, the QL muscle is a key player. It works with other muscles in the back to keep the spine in a neutral position and prevent excessive movement. This is especially important when you’re lifting heavy objects or doing other types of strenuous activity. The QL muscle helps to keep the spine stable and protect it from injury.
In terms of hip and trunk movements, the QL muscle plays a crucial role in both flexion and extension. Flexion is when you bend forward at the hips, and extension is when you arch your back. The QL muscle is responsible for both of these movements, and it works with other muscles in the back to control the range of motion and stability.
The QL muscle also plays a role in rotation of the trunk. When you twist or rotate your torso, the QL muscle on the opposite side of the rotation will contract to help stabilize the spine.
Why does the QL tighten up overnight so much?
Sleeping on your side or stomach can cause the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle to tighten up overnight. First, when you sleep on your side, the QL muscle is in a shortened position, which can cause it to become tight over time. Additionally, when you sleep on your stomach, the QL muscle is in a position of maximal stretch, which can also cause it to become tight.
Another reason why sleeping on your side or stomach can cause the QL muscle to tighten up overnight is because it is a postural muscle. This means that it helps to hold your spine in a neutral position, and when you sleep in a position that puts your spine in a non-neutral position, it can cause the QL muscle to work harder than it should. This can lead to muscle fatigue and tightness.
Lastly, when you are sleeping on your stomach, you are likely to use a pillow that is too high, which can cause your neck to be in a hyperextended position. This can put a lot of stress on your QL muscle, which can cause it to tighten up.
How can you sleep on your side or stomach not have low back pain?
To prevent the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle from tightening up while sleeping on your side or stomach, there are a few adjustments you can make:
- Use a thinner pillow or no pillow at all: When sleeping on your stomach, using a thin pillow or no pillow can help to keep your spine in a neutral position and reduce the stress on the QL muscle.
- Place a pillow between your legs: When sleeping on your side, placing a pillow between your legs can help to keep your hips and pelvis level, which can reduce the stress on the QL muscle.
- Use a supportive mattress: A supportive mattress can help to keep your spine in a neutral position while you sleep, which can reduce the stress on the QL muscle.
- Keep a good sleeping posture: Sleeping with proper alignment can help to reduce the stress on the QL muscle. This means sleeping on your back and keeping your spine in a neutral position.
- Do stretching and exercises: Before going to sleep, stretching your lower back and QL muscle can help to release any tension that you may have built up during the day.
It’s worth noting that while sleeping on your side or stomach may cause your QL muscle to tighten up, it’s not necessarily harmful or dangerous. However if you are experiencing pain or discomfort that is waking you up at night, please consult your doctor as you may have a serious injury that could result in worse problems.
Where are the trigger points to relax your QL?
If you want to massage your quadratus lumborum on your own, using a lacrosse ball is a great way to do it. Place the lacrosse ball on the floor and lie on your back. Place the ball in the area between your 12th rib and the iliac crest. You can then use your body weight to apply pressure to the area. You want to focus on the areas that feel particularly tight and tender. Move the ball in small circles and apply gentle but firm pressure to the muscle. You will likely feel pressure deep in your back that may extend down to your hip. The reason for this is that the QL muscle is a muscle that is attached to both your spine AND your hip.
Too long; Didn’t read
In conclusion, the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle is a muscle located in the lower back that helps to hold the spine in a neutral position. Sleeping on your side or stomach can cause the QL muscle to tighten up overnight due to being in a shortened or maximally stretched position, being a postural muscle, and potentially using a pillow that is too high. To alleviate QL pain in the morning, a few adjustments you can make to your sleeping habits include using a thinner pillow or no pillow at all, placing a pillow between your legs, using a supportive mattress, keeping a good sleeping posture, and doing stretching and exercises before going to sleep. It’s important to note that if you are experiencing pain or discomfort that wakes you up at night, it’s best to consult with a doctor or physical therapist for a personalized treatment plan.
Jordan Tank, Personal Trainer, Columbus, Ohio
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