Quadratus lumborum muscle
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.
|Origin||Iliac crest, iliolumbar ligament|
|Insertion||Inferior border of rib 12, transverse processes of vertebrae L1-L4|
Subcostal nerve (T12), anterior rami of spinal nerves L1-L4
|Blood supply||Lumbar, median sacral, iliolumbar and subcostal arteries|
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.
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.
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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).
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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.
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