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Can tightness in the quad muscles be a factor in lower back pain?


The quadriceps muscles are located at the front of your leg and is commonly referred to as the front thigh. Tightness in the quads could be creating pain and a posture problem for you.

Different forces may be the cause and multiple forces may be happening at the same

  • Tight quads can lead to lower back pain because they pull the pelvis down.
  • Tight quads naturally lead to weak hamstring muscles. These are the quads’ opposing muscles, located at the back of your thigh. Stress and pressure on the hamstrings can cause back pain.

Both examples above could affect your pelvic position. If your pelvic alignment is off, your posture may be affected which can then lead to pain in your lower back.

How does the tightness in my quads pull on my pelvis?

There is nothing like being in pain or discomfort to make you want to understand and explore the cause of it. Being well informed can help you to better communicate with your therapist about how you are feeling.

The Quadricep muscles are made up of four different muscles (Rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and Vastus intermedius).

The Rectus femoris muscle is the only muscle in the quadriceps that attaches to the pelvis at a point
called the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine).
This means the rectus femoris is the only one in the quadriceps group that crosses over your hip joint (and also affects movement there).

When the quads (and especially the rectus femoris) get tight, they pull on the hip bone as the ASIS. The pelvis rotates downward, or forward resulting in an anterior tilt of the pelvis.

The spine is positioned in between the two halves of the pelvis. So as the pelvis tilts forward, the lumbar spine may react by going into an arch. It is referred to as lordosis of the lower back and causes tightened and sometimes painful back muscles.

Are Tight Quads Overpowering my Hamstrings?
When your quads are too tight, and the pelvis is pulled down at the front, there is a corresponding lift in back. This pulls on the hamstring pulling them into a stretch position.

If you sit a lot at home or work, you can probably feel your hamstring muscles tight, as the hamstring muscles are attached to your pelvis at the back.

Generally, a good posture and good hamstring strength helps to pull down your pelvis in the back.
This is a good thing because it helps keep your pelvis in a comfortable position.

Tight quads set off a “chain reaction” in your body as the pelvis moves down in front and up in back while the hamstring stretches. The reaction? Pain and tightness.

Tightness in the quads moves the pelvis down in the front and up in the back resulting in the hamstrings stretching. This can result in pain in the lower back and pain sitting for long periods of times.
If you don’t strengthen your hamstrings and stretch your quads, the hamstrings may lose their ability to support your ideal pelvic and spinal positions.

Do I have tight quads?

Believe it or not, most people including sports stars don’t know if their  quads are tight.
It can be difficult to know for sure, especially if you spend most of your day sitting in work, at home or in a car.
The longer time you spend in a seated position the tighter your quads and your lower back muscles are likely to be.

You may be wondering why you feel back pain if you have tight quadriceps. Chances are, a couple of things are going on:
Your quad muscles are tilting your pelvis forward and your weakened hamstring muscles are putting pressure on your back.

The best course of action to take is for a visit to your therapist. A posture evaluation and full review assessment can be done to test your quads.

Keith Griffin
Physical Therapist

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