Avoiding lower back pain from the troublesome QL muscle
Why is the QL so important to runners?
The QL is a deep back muscle that connects the twelfth rib to the lumbar vertebrae and the top of the hip bone. It's primary functions are to bend your body from side to side and bring your hips up to your chest which is exactly the movements used whilst running and therefore a muscle that is constantly being used.
Why does it often get uncomfortable?
Due to the position and motions our body goes through whilst running which can greatly differ due to everyone's individual running styles, this muscle is constantly being stretched and a great demand is placed on it to be working all the time. Thus it can make the runner feel pain, tightness or discomfort in the low back and hip area.
Do people tend to find one side gets more uncomfortable than the other? If so, any ideas why?
The QL is on both sides of the spine but as humans we are not and never use our bodies symmetrically. We all tend to favour one side of our bodies more, especially with running where we often have a more dominant leg. We tend to place more emphasis to one side and therefore this places greater demand on one side of the low back.
What can we do to limit discomfort when actually running?
It can be very difficult to change running styles and alter old habits so this can be looked at slowly over time with a professional to see if there are areas in your running style that can be changed to help take the pressure of your lower back. Having the correct footwear, not over training, keeping hydrated and stretching before and after a run can really make a big difference for the QL.
Are there any stretches we should do daily/after runs to help combat this?
The main two I find which are great for this are:
Knee hugs - lying on your back bring your knees to your chest but do not lift your neck off the floor or rock your knees from side to side. It is a gentle, subtle stretch that targets the back muscles and keeping the spinal joints mobile.
QL stretch - standing, place the right leg over the left (so both little toes are touching), take the right arm above your head and bend to the left hand side. Play around with the angle of the arm (forward and backward) to enhance the stretch.
Hold all the stretches for 5-10 seconds.
Do we need to strengthen this muscle to help reduce discomfort? Or perhaps surrounding muscles?
No because it is being overworked already it would be more beneficial to strength your core muscles - abdominal and pelvic floor muscles - and improve hip flexibility.