Body Care and Maintenance – The QL and how it relates to paddlers

What is the QL? The QL or Quadratus Lumborium is a deep muscle in your low back that extends, stabilizes and laterally flexes your low back. It also aids in breathing and lifting your hip. 
 
 
I think this is a muscle that kayakers often overlook until a problem is present. As kayakers we tend to be imbalanced and develop weaknesses that can cause major problems. Shoulders and hips are two of the most common things that you hear about which require constant maintenance but recently I have heard a number of cases of paddlers including some of the top level and hardest chargers straining or pulling this muscle leading to having long and frustrating recoveries due to how much this one muscle does for us as paddlers. 
 
After dealing with this issue myself I have had to learn how to rehab the QL I have found some things that have helped me a great deal:
 
Think of the muscle as soft fibrous tissue, if they are strained the only way they will heal is by slowly bonding back together which takes time. For me I am the kind of person that when I have an injury I immediately try to fix it with stretching first. Sometime light stretching works, But with a QL injury, due to overuse I found that if I stretched it in the first few day/weeks of the initial injury or stain it actually got worse. I think this is because I was pulling/stretching the damaged tissue apart before it had proper time to heal or bond. So, with that said, Its important to first give it time to heal. 
 
Relaxing the muscle,. If your having low back/ QL pain its because that muscle is under constant tension and my even be in spasm. For the muscle to begin to heal it first needs to be relaxed. The best way I have found to relax the low back is to lay on your back with your feet on a chair so that your knees are at a ninety degree angle. I will typically take a hot shower to warm up my body and increase blood flow (a key to healing) then lay down for 15-20 minutes with my feet up. I also try to sleep on my back with a roll under my neck and one or 2 pillows under my knees. Drink a ton of water and don’t be afraid to take some ibuprofen. I personally try to only take ibuprofen for real pain/inflammation. So not taking it when I am “good” sore from training or paddling but saving it for when I really need it and I will be way more effective and healthy.    
 
Once a few days has passed you can start to think about the next steps. For me I like doing light activities such as walking to keep from getting too stiff. I especially like getting in a pool (preferably a warm therapy pool”  and swimming, which is nice because there is no tension on your body and you can really get some good mobility and get the blood flowing.
 
The key to healing this injury is getting your core and lower body strength up. I think the root of a QL injury relating to kayaking is that use end up using this muscle for everything and its gets overused and eventually gives out. So if you can take some of the workload of the QL and use your core it will be less likely to be an issue. I like planks and V-ups especially. A nice progression for planks is to work on lifting and alternating one leg up but keeping your core engaged and a flat back. This helps train your body to use your core more then your lower back muscles. Also wall sits and one leg lunges/squats are good. Make sure you are at a point where your able to do this type of activity, every injury is different and you have to listen to your body to know if its ready. Start out easy and build up, I am the king of going too hard to soon and prolonging the healing. I have had to learn to take it slower. 
 
Lastly, stretching is obviously an important aspect to healing any injury. But with the QL ease into it, its not good to intensely stretch then then go paddle hard. I have made it a habit to do a good warm up before paddling then stretch after. For the QL any side bend stretch seems to help. 
 
I hope this bit of info can help, feel free to reach out to me via social media if you have an more specific questions. I’ve had tons of injuries and know how frustrating it can be. Kayaking is a very demanding sport, think about adding some out of the boat training/PT to your routine and keep some being injured and on the sidelines when the rains falls.   
 
Happy Paddling, 
Isaac

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