EN | DE | PT Get help How to study Login Register

Quadratus lumborum muscle: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Quadratus lumborum muscle

Quadratus lumborum muscle (Musculus quadratus lumborum)

The quadratus lumborum muscle is a muscle of the posterior abdominal wall lying deep inside the abdomen and dorsal to the iliopsoas. It is the deepest muscle of the posterior abdominal wall, and it is often mistakenly referred to as one of the muscles of the back. Its shape is irregular, but is generally quadriangular, which is the reason why it is described as 'quadratus' in latin.

Besides the spine, it also attaches to the twelwth rib, which makes it very important for stabilization of both vertebral column and the rib during various movements of the spine. In order to palpate the muscle one needs place the fingers above the posterior iliac crest at the level of the hip.

This article will discuss the anatomy and clinical importance of the quadratus lumborum muscle.

Key facts about the quadratus lumborum muscle
Origin Iliac crest, iliolumbar ligament
Insertion Inferior border of rib 12, transverse processes of vertebrae L1-L4
Innervation

Subcostal nerve (T12), anterior rami of spinal nerves L1-L4

Blood supply Lumbar, median sacral, iliolumbar and subcostal arteries
Function

Bilateral contraction - fixes Ribs 12 during inspiration, trunk extension

Unilateral contraction - lateral flexion of trunk (ipsilateral)

Origin and insertion

Quadratus lumborum originates from the iliolumbar ligament and iliac crest. It runs craniomedially, attaching to the inferior border of 12th rib and the transverse processes of the 1st to 4th lumbar vertebrae. All fibers together give the muscle a rectangular appearance.

Relations

The quadratus lumborum fills a great amount of space within the abdomen and is therefore in close proximity to many structures. The colon, the kidneys and the diaphragm are located ventrally to the muscle, whereas the intrinsic back muscles lie dorsomedially.

Both the iliohypogastric and ilioinguinal nerves course on the ventral surface of the quadratus lumborum after exiting the lumbar plexus and continue towards the lateral abdominal muscles.

Looking for a fast and effective way to consolidate your knowledge on the quadratus lumborum? With charts listing the attachments, innervations and functions of every muscle, our trunk wall muscle chart is an essential revision tool.

Innervation

Quadratus lumborum is innervated by the subcostal nerve (T12) and anterior rami of spinal nerves L1-L4.

Blood supply

Blood supply to quadratus lumborum comes from the branches of lumbar, subcostal, median sacral, and iliolumbar arteries.

Function

Essentially, the quadratus lumborum contributes to the stabilization and movement of the spine and the pelvis. A bilateral contraction leads to an extension of the lumbar vertebral column. When the muscle is only activated on one side, the trunk is bent towards that direction (lateral flexion).

In addition, the muscle fixes the 12th rib during movements of the thoracic cage and this way supports expiration (accessory muscle of expiration).

Clinical aspects

Overuse and strain of the quadratus lumborum are one of the major causes for chronic pain in the lower back. One typical cause is the habit of sitting at the desk using a reclined seat, which releases the intrinsic back muscles and weakens them in the long term. The weak back muscles must now be compensated by the quadratus lumborum leading to painful tension and stiffening of the muscle.

Other causes can be direct damage or any type of imbalance of the pelvis or spine which forces the quadratus lumborum to stabilize them. An example of that type of imbalance is unequal leg lengths.

Quadratus lumborum muscle: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • D. Drenckhahn/J. Waschke: Taschenbuch Anatomie, 1st edition, Urban & Fischer Verlag/Elsevier (2008), p. 145
  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2nd edition, Thieme Verlag (2007), p. 152 G.
  • Fors: Why we hurt – a complete physical and spiritual guide to healing your chronic pain, Llewellyn Publications (2007), p. 135-138
  • Cael, C. (2010). Functional anatomy: Musculoskeletal anatomy, kinesiology, and palpation for manual therapists. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.
  • Moore, K. L., Dalley, A. F., & Agur, A. M. R. (2014). Clinically Oriented Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Netter, F. (2019). Atlas of Human Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.
  • Palastanga, N., & Soames, R. (2012). Anatomy and human movement: structure and function (6th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
  • Standring, S. (2016). Gray's Anatomy (41tst ed.). Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone

Illustrators:

  • Quadratus lumborum muscle (Musculus quadratus lumborum) - Yousun Koh
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!