Test your quadriceps if you’re suffering with back pain

By Sherwin Nicholson, Honours Bachelor of Science, Author and Back Pain Specialist, SN Health Resources, Lowbackpainprogram.

SN Health Resources | Updated Dec 14, 2020

Your quads are affecting your back a lot more than you realize

Have you ever seen someone at the gym stretch their quads? And for how long? Very few do.

The quad stretch will instantly reveal just how much this is happening.  It is such an easy test that you should keep it as part of your treatment plan in order to get on the proper track for relief.

Even though there are many different muscle groups that can cause your discomfort, tight and unresponsive quads are definitely one of them.  They are a very pervasive and persistent culprit and that more you activate them, the tighter they get.

The reason tight quads are such a nagging problem is that sitting, walking and other activities we practice causes them to tighten up all of the time.  And rarely do we stretch them.

Without routinely stretching your quads, they will pull on your pelvis and harm the discs in your spine. Once you begin the take care of them, you will feel a lot more relief.

Here is how to begin the Quad Test

1) Stand straight up while holding on to a support such as a chair, desk or wall.


2) Bring one leg up and grasp one foot.


3) Slowly pull your foot up behind you while pointing the knee downward.


If this is your limit, that’s okay


Straight down is better

4) Pull your foot behind you until you begin to feel a gentle stretch. Be careful not to strain your knee while doing this.


Past vertical and behind is ideal

5) Measure how much you are able to stretch your quad.

6) Hold for at least 5 seconds.

7) Repeat with your other leg and measure again.

How Did You Do?

  1. How easy was it for you to bring your foot to your hand and then behind you?
  2. Were you able to hold without discomfort?
  3. Were you stable or did you hip drop lower ?
  4. Was it difficult for you to stretch your quads without discomfort?
  5. Did you have strain or soreness in your thighs or knees?
  6. Could you stretch them past vertical and behind you?
  7. Was one thigh more difficult to stretch than the other?

If you had any difficulty with any number of these questions, your quads are too tight and are pulling on your pelvis and knees.  Too much pull means too much anterior pelvic tilt, leg, back and knee pain.

Whenever you have to stand, lean forward or walk, you’ll have this excessive tilt and that’s bad for your spine and pelvis.

Stretching your quads is such an easy action but it is very neglected.  Sitting for too long (which we are all guilty of) only worsens this problem so we are constantly living with a lifestyle that only makes your quads remain in a shortened state.

Most people with very healthy and well stretched quads should be able to do this stretch easily and without any strain no matter the length of time that they hold this stretch.

If there is one thing that you should take from this, it’s that tight quads lead to an excessively tilted pelvis. That is a bad sign for your lumbar spine.

The pain that you may be experiencing because of this, can be from:

  • a compressed lumbar disc
  • a bulging disc
  • compressed facet joints
  • worn facet joints
  • over tightening the deeper intrinsic lumbar muscles
  • over tightening of your inter vertebral muscles

What to do about it

There are many ways to preserve your neutral tilt.  The quad stretch is one of the easiest and should be part of your treatment plan.  Don’t use it alone as your main method of self-treatment as it is only part of the problem.

If you find these first 4 tests a challenge, then you are now more aware about what your hips, legs and knees should be doing to protect your back.  You are also on your way to better treatment.

The final test, is one of the most important of them all.

It’s the most demanding of them too.  It can be done in a few seconds and will help you to become more aware of your body.

Note: The easier that it becomes for you to pass this test, the less chronic pain you will have.

Begin Test #5

The Full Stand Test

Note: This test is the most challenging, takes time and effort, but you’ll be amazed how important it is to do.

Take the Full Stand Test now

For more help:

Go to the previous test: The Squat Hold Test

Test your hip flexors here

Are your abdominals helping you

How tight is your lower back?