Matt Callison and I are preparing for a two-hour webinar on the quadratus lumborum (QL) and I put together a short video to highlight how this intriguing muscle can interact with other muscles through the tensegrity of the torso.

“Tensegrity” is word coined by architect Buckminster Fuller and combination of the words tension and integrity. He used the word to describe the architectural geodesic domes that he popularized in the United States. Currently, many anatomists and clinicians use the tensegrity model when describing the human structure.

Tensegrity and the Quadratus Lumborum | SPORTSMEDICINEACUPUNCTURE.COMBasically, tensegrity structures are comprised of discontinuous compression elements. These are the wooden dowels in the model on the left, which do not touch.

In the human body, these are the bones. We have joint spaces and our bones are essentially suspended like these wooden dowels.

Tensegrity models are also comprised of continuous tension elements, which are what give the structure its integrity. These are the elastic bands in the model and the myofascial planes—in other words, the sinew channels—in the human body.

What this means is that it is the continuous and, preferably, the balanced tension of the sinew channels that gives shape and form to our bony structure. And, it is the imbalanced relationship of these channels that can hold strain in the body and lead to injury

Tensegrity and the Quadratus Lumborum | SPORTSMEDICINEACUPUNCTURE.COMIf we were to push and pull on the tensegrity model, we would see that the load is dispersed through the entire structure. Again, this is the same in the body and injury can occur when more stress is put into the structure than the soft tissue can dissipate.

When it does get injured, it will often occur at the weakest link. Many times that ‘weakest link’ is already compromised (and made weaker) by imbalances in the channel system that can be observed in things such as valgus knees, an anterior or posterior pelvic tilt, or, in the case of the QL, an elevated ilium.

When treating pain in the body, we can consider this tensegrity model to better understand that we need to not only treat the channel where the pain is, but also the other channels that are part of the overall imbalance.

For the QL, a great example of this is the levator scapula muscle. In SMAC, we discuss in detail how the QL is part of the LIV sinew channel and the levator scapula is part of the SI sinew channel.

It is a frequent occurrence that, when the QL is locked-short and painful that it will elevate the ilium. And, this elevated ilium will frequently be seen with a contralateral elevated scapula and a locked-short levator scapula.

While the patient might come in with pain associated with one or the other of these muscles, understanding that they are part of the overall imbalance in the channel system will help you understand their relationships and treat the entire tensegrity system.


About the author(s):

Brian Lau, AP, C.SMA is has been on the faculty of the Sports Medicine Acupuncture Certification since 2014, and also teaches foundation courses with AcuSport Education. Brian lives and practices in Tampa, FL where he owns and operates Ideal Balance: Center for Sports Medicine Acupuncture ( He blogs on anatomy and TCM at