A muscle balance occurs when there is over developed and tight muscles in one area of the body while the opposing muscles are weak and stretched out of their normal position. Muscle imbalances can happen anywhere on the body. They may occur as a result of everyday activities such a sitting or sports or as a result of injury.
To some degree everyone has muscle imbalances, regardless of age, sex, or level of fitness. It does not have to be a major muscle imbalance. Even the smallest muscle imbalance can over time pull the body out of balance and place uneven pressure and wear and tear particularly on the vertebrae, discs, spine and its supporting muscles.
If the core muscles are out of balance - from strength versus flexibility perspective - front to back or side to side, there will be at least one postural dysfunction and many people may have more than one. When the core muscles are out of balance the pelvis will be pulled out of its normal neutral position. As the pelvis is at the base of the spine and controls the position and curvature of the spine, the spine may then go into abnormal curvature.
The position and curvature of the spine is determined by the amount of balance in numerous muscle groups like the thighs, hips and torso. The skeleton of the body thus may have mechanical problems and pressure points which then causes pain due to its root cause of muscle imbalances. When muscle imbalances pull the spine and body out of alignment, the level of stress also increases on certain muscles, bones and joints.
How Do Muscle Imbalances Develop?
Barring accidents, the majority of back pain happens as a process and relieving it and addressing the underlying cause may also take time.
There are several things that contribute to and create muscle imbalances such as level of activity, activities undertaken on a regular basis, amount and type of exercise. It is also significant how you sit, stand and walk as these are activities constantly performed on a daily basis which may over time contribute to muscle imbalances. It is also significant what type of work a person undertakes, sedentary or active and any repetitive movements.
It’s very important to note that nearly everyone has muscle imbalances.
Whether a person exercises frequently or is more sedentary there is a risk of developing muscle imbalances. However pain may not be apparent for some time after the imbalance has been created. If there is constant repetitive motion in a sport or job or lifestyle habit where some muscle groups become stronger or tighter than others then muscle imbalances may be created.
Conditions Which May Result From Muscle Imbalances
There are many conditions where muscle imbalances may be the root cause or form part of the cause. A few are
- IT band syndrome
- SI joint syndrome
- Frozen shoulder
- Knee pain
- Hip pain
- Back pain. Abnormal curvature of the spine is the root of much back pain - whether it's a pulled back muscle, herniated disc, spinal stenosis, SI joint syndrome or spondylilothesis to name some examples.
Why Do People Have Muscle Pain?
As muscles become increasingly out of balance, your body can be pulled out of proper alignment. This increases more stress and causes additional wear and tear on muscles, ligaments, joints, and even the spine.
It is not usually until your body is in pain or obvious postural dysfunction that people present to a healthcare provider and muscle imbalances may be considered.
While it does take time for muscle imbalances to cause a symptomatic condition and pain, the first signs of trouble are often initially evident in the form of postural dysfunctions.
Postural dysfunction can be seen in the abnormal position on the pelvis, head, neck, shoulder and even in the curvature of the spine. Pain may be felt anywhere and not always related to the particular muscles which are out of balance.
Many people live with chronic unrecognized muscular imbalances and once a postural dysfunction has developed, the body cannot continue for long this way before problems and pain are experienced. It is important to seek treatment and diagnosis rather than masking the pain or attempting to ignore it.
Most treatments that focus only on treating the pain will be less effective or not effective at all if they focus only on the pain. The pain is a symptom of a larger problem that should also be addressed. Pain from an injury may continue as long as the muscle imbalance continues unaddressed and may even become worse.
Pain may be addressed with pain killers or injections or other treatments to relieve it. However, without thorough assessment and educating the person about how to address any muscle imbalances they may have, the pain will only be masked and the imbalances may increase which may lead to more serious conditions.
If pain is as a result of muscle imbalances the muscle imbalances must be addressed to reduce and eliminate the pain otherwise the pain is likely to continue or become worse over time.
Any treatment program must address the symptoms, often in the form of pain and the root cause of the pain, which may be muscle imbalances, to be most effective and long lasting.
It is also important that you engage in the process of looking after your back and conducting the necessary exercises or treatment regime and learning to look after your back for a healthy life.
In order for this to occur you must be informed about and have an understanding of your condition and root cause and how the treatment will support your back to a healthy state.
Explaining Muscle Balance Therapy
Back pain often develops as a process. Muscle Balance Therapy addresses the underlying cause of the condition while at the same time brings relief to symptoms. In essence, it attempts to reverse the process that brought pain and bring the body back to a more neutral state.
Muscle Balance Therapy is an approach to eliminating back pain. It starts with a careful yet simple assessment of all the muscles that affect the stability of the hips, pelvis, and spine and considers them from the perspective of strength and flexibility.
It is most effective when specific physical and visual assessments are undertaken to ensure an accurate confirmation of any dysfunctions. The physical should confirm the visual, and the visual should confirm the physical. In the absence of these assessments, any generic stretching and strengthening exercises given is going to be at risk of stretching or strengthening the wrong muscles, which can be counterproductive and make the condition worse.
How Muscle Balance Therapy works
Muscle balance therapy was designed to first identify and then address muscle imbalances. The Muscle Balance Therapy approach uses the results of the assessments to design an individually targeted program of corrective exercises to help take the stress off muscles, joints, and ligaments in order to achieve a more balanced body and eliminate the cause of the pain.
Muscle Balance Therapy is effectively a very "unbalanced workout" to get the body back into proper balance. Once muscles are more balanced and pain eases, normal activities should be resumed. It is useful however to review the body every 6 months for any emerging muscle imbalances.
With the Muscle Balance Therapy you must be engaged in the process and willing to devote some time and effort as you will need to commit to undertaking the exercises on a regular basis. In this sense it is a very active treatment, unlike some of the more passive treatments for back pain which require the back pain sufferer to do very little.
Back pain can be somewhat masked with pain killing drugs and some other treatments temporarily but the underlying cause must be addressed.
Taking Back Pain Seriously
There are recognized Red flags of back pain that you need to be aware of so that you can seek medical attention immediately when you need it.
These include and are not limited to Loss of bowel or bladder function, paralysis or persistent numbness of any part of the body and/or pain in the arms and chest.
It is of concern if back pain that is constant and getting progressively worse and/or back pain and you have, (or have had cancer in the past).
Back pain after an accident /injury e.g. been in a road traffic accident needs investigation.
Also if back pain is accompanied by any of a fever, feeling very unwell, urinary tract infection and/or progressive motor weakness, unexplained weight loss and back pain it needs urgent attention.
If back pain becomes apparent after a transplant operation medical attention should be sought.
Even minor back pain, should be taken very seriously. The body is indicating something is wrong.
If there is a failure to address the back pain situation when it is minor it may result in a higher level of pain and you having to work much harder and longer to get back to a pain-free state.