Tweak your low back shoveling? These stretches can help

  • Ginny Hamilton, a local pain specialist and reiki master, demonstrates The Hip Hiker stretch, which targets the Quadratus Lumborum muscles. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ginny Hamilton, a local pain specialist and reiki master, demonstrates The Hip Hiker Stretch. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Here, Ginny Hamilton demonstrates The Teapot, a side bend that can help alleviate a stiff lower back. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 3/19/2019 1:43:59 PM


My Dad surprised me by answering the phone on a recent Wednesday morning. Normally, Wednesday is the day he volunteers with Head Start. In his 80s, Dad remains active; in addition to weekly volunteer shifts at Head Start, Habitat for Humanity and church, he walks or swims two miles most days. “What are you doing home?” I asked, not expressing my real question: “What’s wrong?”

Apparently, he’d tweaked his back shoveling after a recent storm. It hurt badly enough that he’d dropped all of his activities for the past few weeks, even his walks.

“Why haven’t you called me? You remember what I do for a living, don’t you?” (These questions were rhetorical, of course, or at least better left to my sister, the social worker.)

His description of where it hurt — mostly along one side of his tailbone and buttocks, and also along the upper edge of the same hip — sounded like a spasm in his hip hiker muscles.

The Quadratus Lumborum muscles (QL for short) extend our low back and allow us to bend side to side, like in the nursery song “I’m a Little Teapot.” When one side locks up, it pulls that hip bone with it, straining the muscles attached to the outer hip, lower back and the tailbone. Many people feel the pain low in their buttocks as well as along the top edge of the hip bone and alongside the tailbone.

I’m pleased to share that Dad took his daughter’s advice and used these exercises diligently. Within two weeks, he was back to his usual activity level, including singing “I’m a Little Teapot” with the kids at Head Start.

Here’s how to get your QL to release:

Stretch #1: The Hip Hiker

Stand on the bottom step of a staircase facing sideways with one foot on the step and one off as shown above. Lift your hip, bringing the dangling foot even or slightly higher than the step. Hold for 3 seconds and then let that leg dangle down. Repeat two or three times on each side. Use this exercise once or twice a day. This movement uses your QL muscle to hike your leg. When you then release your hip, gravity helps gently stretch the QL muscle.

Use this simple stretch to keep the QL and low back from seizing. This is a great warm up before, during and after shoveling, or any time your low back feels stiff.

Stretch #2: The Teapot

With hands on your hips, gently bend sideways from your waist, moving as you exhale as shown at right. I like moving slowly from one side then the other, back and forth with each round of breath, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Use this often throughout the day when your low back feels stiff.

Pain Specialist Ginny Hamilton studied Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT) with its founder, Lee Albert at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. A certified yoga instructor and Reiki Master Teacher, Hamilton offers classes and private sessions in Amherst, Hadley, and South Hadley. Contact her at:

Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy