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Yoga For Back Pain

Yoga is great for back pain (and this is reassuring to know especially as it can rear its’ ugly head during our day-to-day lives).

In this blog, I am going to talk about how yoga can help one pair of back muscles in particular.  The quadratus lumborum.

These muscles work hard to keep the back steady and can be the cause of back pain.

About the Quadratus Lumborum

You have one quadratus lumborum muscle on each side of the spine.

They attach from the 12th rib (lower rib) to the pelvis at the back (shown in green below)

This muscle is responsible for helping you bend to the side, lift things and twist.

It also stabilises the trunk when moving or stationary (including sitting).

You can find out more about this amazing muscle pair here

How do I know it is my quadratus lumborum muscle that is unhappy?

It is beyond the power of this blog post to diagnose your back pain and as a yoga teacher, it is not my job.

Instead, my role as a yoga teacher and therapist is to help you move your body differently so that the muscles work more in balance.  This alone, can help resolve back pain in many circumstances.

One way to tell if your quadratus lumborum (QL) is unhappy is if you get a dull ache in your lower back and on one side of the body.

Another sign is if one hip looks higher or more prominent than the other (when looking in a mirror).

Both are indicators that one QL is shorter than the other.  It is this difference in symmetry on the two sides that contributes to the back pain.

You may also have a flatter lumbar (lower back) curve but this is not always the case.

How Yoga Can Help Re-build Symmetry in The QL Muscles (alleviating back pain)

Yoga is great for soothing back pain because it is a versatile practice that strengthens, stretches and mobilises the spine.

Regular practice will help you bring back the full range of movement of the spine – including the QL muscles.

Below are a few guidelines to help you choose poses that will support the health and mobility of the spine and re-balance the QL muscles.

1) Practice Restorative Poses

These poses help the muscles that surround the spine to relax and rest helping to counteract tightness and spasms.  Most restorative poses are great for this but child’s pose is a lovely choice to target the QL muscles.  Try practising a restorative pose daily for 5-10 minutes.  You should feel a difference after a few days or it might be instantaneous.

2) Poses to Target the Hamstrings and Quadriceps

Tight leg muscles can pull on the pelvis, which in turn will irritate the QL muscles.

Poses that strengthen and stretch out the hamstrings and quadriceps are useful.  Good poses to include are low lunge, crescent lunge, the warrior family, forward folds and hero.

3) Pose To Target the QL

As the QL muscles work to help us to side bend and twist the spine include poses that do the same.  The added benefit of doing both sides of the body is that you will get a sense of which side feels more grumpier or tighter than the other.

For twists include poses like revolved chair, twisted low lunge, and seated and supine twists.  Triangle, reverse warrior, side angle and gate pose are great side bending poses that will stretch the QL and open up the side body.

Try This Short Yoga Practice for the QL

Why not try out this 10-minute sequence to soothe the QL muscles including a quick self-message, rebalance and reset?


Closing Thoughts

The above is just an introduction to how yoga can help back pain by targeting one particular muscle, the QL.  If you are interested in learning more there are two things you can do now.

  1. Join me for my next workshop ‘Back Bends Without The Back Pain’.  Find out more about it here
  2. You can read an older blog post that I wrote about back pain here.

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