Are You an Accident Waiting to Happen?

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.

How Muscle Imbalance Comes About

Mime leans to the right and rests arm and elbow on the air.

Muscle imbalance is often brought about by joint misalignment, and it may make poor posture worse. 

Muscle imbalance may also contribute to joint misalignment.

Either way, it is characterized by a combination of extraordinary amounts of tension or spasms, along with muscle weakness.

Imbalanced muscles that are tight are often strong enough to pull one or more joints out of alignment. 

Imbalanced muscles that are weak may be easily overcome, which is another way joints become misaligned.

Designed Like a Symphony

In a healthy state, all muscles that surround a joint work in harmony with one another, like a symphony.

When muscle imbalances are present, the weak muscles are positioned in a way the makes it difficult or impossible for them to contribute support to the joint. The result is an interruption in the alignment and natural movement of the joint.

Left unchecked, the pattern perpetuates itself – tight muscles get tighter, leading to disengaged, and even weak muscles on the other side of that same joint. Those weak muscles then encourage more tension in the tight muscles.

This continues until you find a way to disrupt it.

Not only that, but muscle imbalance often starts at one or a few joints.

Because the affected joints become dysfunctional, other areas are brought in to help, and they, too, become tight, weak and dysfunctional.

You might say that muscle imbalances tend to spread unless you address them with a movement program.

Imbalanced Auto Pilot Moves

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 muscle imbalances like the type we talked about above is present during that initial learning time, then they will probably become part of the way you perform the task once it’s on autopilot.

Are You an Accident Waiting to Happen (Like I Was?)

So you do your familiar movements on auto-pilot over and over again, 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.

A fat orange cat looking up.

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.

Is Your Core Imbalanced? If So, Uh Oh…

Patterns of muscle imbalance can develop anywhere in the body. 

But let’s talk core and trunk for a minute. The core and trunk, which are different names for the same thing, are your body’s center. 

For most people, the core and trunk muscles do the lion’s share of the body and posture support work.

When the core is balanced and well-aligned, injury risk and muscle pain diminish or even disappears.

On the other hand, imbalances in core muscles tend 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 started in on my healing journey, which, I found out, was largely about developing balanced strength and flexibility in the muscles that serve the pelvis, hips, core, trunk and shoulders.

This balanced strength approached worked so well that it inspired me to teach others who also experienced pain and dysfunction.

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.

Your Body's Balance Point

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's a key player when it comes to support for, and movement in, the structures located above and below.

Hands balancing PSIS bones at the back of the pelvis.

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. Examples include the legs and spine relationship, the ribs to spine  relationship, 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 well these areas work together to keep you upright, and propel you as you walk, run or otherwise move your body. 

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. 

Add to this the fact that muscle imbalances in one layer may lead to muscle imbalances in other layers, the task of reestablishing balance through your body may seem daunting, indeed. 

Reversing Muscle Imbalance IS Possible - With a Little Work

I have a bit of good news.

Muscle balance related pain and dysfunction are often mistaken for more structural damage. Generally, though, 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 body alignment and 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.