“I have put my back out!” This is a phrase we hear often and usually after a patient has lifted something heavy and awkward, bent over to pick something up, or has slept on a soft saggy mattress. In my experience this type of low back pain is often related to a muscle called the Quadratus Lumborum, or the QL for short.
The QL is a muscle that resides in the lower back on either side of the spine. It functions to stabilize the spine and pelvis but also helps you to stand up straight, lift your hip, and bend sideways at the waist.
Poor posture and sitting for long periods can weaken other spine and pelvis stabilizing muscles of the lower back and buttocks, which can force the QL muscle to constrict and tighten in an attempt to compensate for this loss of support in the lower back.
Let's say this scenario of muscle weakness and QL muscle compensation has been going on for a while in your lower back, unbeknownst to you. One day a mate asks you to help move a couch, you oblige and move the couch - no problem. But that night you begin experiencing deep, ache that might even sharp in the lower back. It hurts to walk and stand up, and even rolling over in bed is painful. What happened? Well, the extra strain from lifting the couch has over loaded an already tight QL muscle in your lower back, which has caused it to go into spasm and become painful.
Acupuncture and cupping are excellent soft tissue treatment approaches for relieving QL related lower back pain. These two therapies work to relieve QL muscle tension and pain by releasing painful knots called trigger points that build up in the muscle and cause it to become shortened, tight and painful.
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Ryan Samuels - Registered Acupuncturist & Chinese Herbalist