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Muscle Imbalance

When your muscles are balanced, your muscle pull on one side of your joint is matched with the muscle pull on the other side of the joint - this reduces the stressors going through that joint.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Recurring injuries to your spine
  • Poor posture
  • Weak core muscles (saggy tummy and flat buttocks)
  • Tight leg muscles (eg hamstring muscles)
  • Poor balance, clumbsiness, falls or stumbles.
  • "Collapsing" technique with running or landing
  • Poor sports performance - slower times and less power
  • Increase in injury levels, aches and pains
  • Sudden severe back pain with giving way feeling of your leg
  • Sudden jolts of back pain for no particular reason
  • Push or walk up the front of your thighs to stand upright.
  • Problems with standing on one leg
  • You might dribble when you laugh, cough or sneeze

You may also suffer from Malalignment and Altered Biomechanics.

Description

When your muscles are balanced, your muscle pull on one side of your joint is matched with the muscle pull on the other side of the joint - this reduces the stressors going through that joint. When your muscles are imbalanced and one side is tighter than the other, there is more stress going through the joint which can cause damage and lead to pain.  Imbalances are common when the muscles which hold your posture upright go on holiday because of pain or lifestyle (eg sitting for long periods) and other muscles become stronger and tighter to compensate (the workaholics). The best known example of muscle imbalance develops when you have a weak core.

Weak core stability is a commonly used term describing weakness in the muscles which support and control your posture. Core muscles, found around the middle of your body, mainly in your stomach, back and buttock regions, reduce the strains your spine experiences during every day life. A weak core allows too much movement between your joints which can stress your bones, joints, muscles and ligaments.

Your core muscles act like the pole at the centre of a circus tent - if the tent pole is made of soft rubber (like weak core muscles) the tent will move with the wind. When this happens, the surrounding structures of the tent become more strained causing some parts of the tent being loose (under active) whilst others become tight (over active). Just like the circus tent, we all need a solid core to give us stability in the middle, whether you sit at a desk all day or play sport professionally.

The science bit

Your core muscles should act like a corset, when activated they should squeeze inwards around your spine to hold it stable and take the pressure off your joints, discs and connective tissues. These muscles are arranged like a barrel with the diaphragm at the top, the pelvic floor at the bottom and the transverse abdominis, obliques, multifidus and quadratus lumborum as the walls. When they work correctly, these muscles contract before you move or lift and are activated to hold you in a good posture. If these muscles fatigue or are unable to provide enough support, stresses can be transferred to your spine and you are more likely to be injured.

It's vital that you regain your core muscle control to recover fully from back injury. When you suffer from poor core stability you are likely to have ongoing back problems.

Advice & Treatment

Your Core (also known as your muscles which go on holiday)

Strengthen your core by improving your posture in standing and sitting. If you sit, stand or work in an active or physical job, it's improtant for you to develop good habits at work, to take the strain away from your body.

Exercise such as Pilates help to improve your posture, muscle balance and core muscle control. Because everyone's needs are different, it is best to see your Pilates instructor for a one-to-one session first before you join a class, so you have a programme which works for you personally. When your core muscles have been lazy you need to remind your brain how to get the correct muscles working - if you have tight or overactive muscles it can be hard to wake up the deeper muscles which support your back so it’s important you learn to do the exercises correctly.

Tight muscles (also known as workaholic muscles)

It is easiest to treat muscle imbalance if your muscles are softened with massage, to release the tight and stiff areas.

Stretches to your hamstrings and and deep tissue massage to tight back and buttock muscles will help you to improve your flexibility. Massage will also help to improve your circulation and relieve pain which may be built up from knots which develop when you suffer pain. Self massage – rolling your back on a tennis ball against the wall, is an easy way to self- manage. Just press and hold on your ball on the tight areas in your back and buttocks and wait until these points begin to ease off. Heating the tight areas will help you to stretch so have a warm bath before you begin.

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