How imbalanced muscles can lead to havoc in your posture and risk for injury.
Muscle imbalance refers to the strength and/or flexibility differences between muscle groups that surround, protect and move your joints. Not only can muscle imbalance cause pain and limit what you are able to do, but it may lead to an injury, as well.
Muscle imbalance is often brought about by joint misalignment, and it can also make your poor posture worse. It involves a combination of extraordinary amounts of tension or spasms and muscle weakness.
In fact, imbalanced muscles can get so tight that they pull one or more joints out of alignment, and so weak that they are easily overcome.
Left unchecked, the pattern perpetuates itself – tight muscles get tighter, leading to disengaged, and eventually weak muscles on the other side of that same joint.
Normally, all the muscles around a joint are supposed to work together.
They are designed to work together, like a symphony.
But in the case of muscle imbalance, the weak muscles are put in a position (so to speak) where they can’t contribute their part. The result is an interruption in the natural movement and alignment of the joint.
By nature, we humans are creatures of habit. Learning new moves is at first a conscious act requiring attention, focus and experimentation. But once mastered, the task learned goes on auto-pilot, and you’ll likely perform it the same way you learned it, every time, without giving it a second thought.
If the muscle imbalance we talked about above is present during that initial learning time, then it’s probably going to become part of the way you perform the task once it’s on autopilot.
So you do your familiar movements on auto-pilot over and over, for hours, days, weeks, months and years – until one day — wham! That extra strong muscle has gotten so strong that it has completely overtaken the muscles on the other side of that same joint – and you pull something, injure something or simply end up with a terrible muscle spasm.
Picking up my cat was seemingly my back’s downfall.
Believe me, I know, because it’s happened to me.
One day years ago, I bent down to pick up my cat (as I would frequently do without incident) and the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back – unable to get up off the floor.
Patterns of muscle imbalance can develop anywhere in the body.
But let’s talk core and trunk for a minute. The core and trunk are your body’s center. It does the lion’s share of body support work. So when this area is balanced and well-aligned, the risk for injury and muscle pain diminishes or even disappears.
On the other hand, imbalance in the core tends to turn people into “accidents waiting to happen.”
Again, I know, because that’s what I was the moment (and probably months or even years) before I tried to pick up my cat that day.
Because I couldn't get up, I spent the better part of the afternoon on the floor contemplating this condition.
Once I was finally able to extradite myself from the floor, I starting in on my healing journey, which, I found out, was largely about developing balanced strength and flexibility in the muscles that serve the pelvis and trunk.
This worked so well that I became inspired to teach others in pain and dysfunction what I had discovered.
Since then, I’ve helped many clients, students and readers turn this “accident waiting to happen” condition (more about that below) around, and to go on to live very active lives without further mishaps.
The “accident waiting to happen” state – and one’s ability to resolve it – has to do with the pelvis’s role as a balancing point for your overall body posture.
The pelvis is located at the physical center of your body. As such, it plays a key role in supporting and moving the structures located both above and below.
As with every area of the body, muscles that run through and around the pelvis require harmonious degrees of strength and flexibility for smooth operation of all they affect. This harmony keeps the pelvic position balanced, and helps maintain a healthy fit between adjacent parts such as legs and spine, spine and ribs, and more.
Muscle imbalance through the pelvis can translate to chronic misalignment in the joints of your low back, hips and/or sacroiliac. It also affects how these areas work together to keep you upright, and propel you as you walk, run or otherwise move your body.
Balance, or lack of it, at the core plays a big role in how well you physically function.
This is why activating and developing your core is so key.
But if you, like most people, have accumulated years of poor posture and movement habits, you may have layers and layers of imbalances to work through.
Not only that, but muscle imbalances in one layer may lead to the development of muscle imbalances in other layers. For some people, this makes the task of re-establishing balance through their body seem daunting, indeed.
I have a bit of good news.
Muscle balance related pain and dysfunction are often mistaken for more structural damage. But generally that’s not the case.
Muscle imbalance is largely fixable – if you are willing to work through it, that is. Things you can do to balance out your muscle groups include: Stretching what is tight, strengthening what is weak, activating your deep core muscles, and learning how to develop supported relaxation.
To start balancing your muscles, get my Kindle book, How to Move the Pain Out of Your Body: A Woman's Holistic Guide to Easing Out of Pain and Getting Strong Again.