You’ve likely heard about the importance of regular stretching and strengthening of muscles since being in gym class back in elementary school. Doing so keeps you feeling loose, in shape, and generally feels good. But did you know that doing these exercises regularly can help you maintain a correct balancing act within your muscles? From a chiropractic perspective, taking time to stretch and strengthen muscles each day can also have profound effects on our posture by helping to avoid muscle imbalances which can cause pain and movement dysfunction.
What is a muscle imbalance anyway? As humans, we’re equipped with skeletal muscles that allow us to move in single planes of motion or combined planes of motion as we choose, but we require even muscle tone or “balance” to be able to optimally move throughout those planes. Muscle imbalances are functional disorders when a muscle or muscle group is chronically overused and stronger than an opposing muscle or muscle group. This discrepancy creates abnormal tension or pull on muscles, joints, and overall frame resulting in chronic feeling of tension, limited mobility, poor posture, and pain/discomfort. A common example of a muscle imbalance that you’re likely familiar with is having “hunched shoulders” with the head pulled forward. This position is achieved overtime by having tight, activated upper back and chest muscles while also having weaker, inhibited muscles in the front of the neck and mid back. Chiropractors will refer to this pattern as an “Upper Crossed Syndrome”. Another common example is known as a “Lower Crossed Syndrome” and can produce low back pain while making you appear like you’re arching your lower back too much. In this example, a person will have tight, activated low back and front hip muscles while also having weaker, inhibited abdominal and gluteal muscles. There are several other muscle imbalances that can occur throughout the body which can be sometimes be subtle and occurring simultaneously.
Part of a chiropractor’s job is finding these imbalances and then developing an appropriate plan to reverse the pattern. To identify common muscle imbalances, a chiropractor’s examination will often include a few movement tests to assess specific muscle strength, length, and function. If you have ever been asked during a chiropractic visit to perform a simple exercise like a squat or a push up, you were likely being examined for imbalances. If needed, they can have you perform a series of movement tests collectively known as a functional movement screen to find less obvious imbalances. To treat the imbalances, a chiropractor will generally perform a type of myofascial release or trigger point therapy technique to the tight, overactive muscles and follow up with joint manipulation where needed. They will then review a prescribed set of exercises to effectively stretch out tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles where appropriate which can be performed daily for long-term correction.
Call us at (757) 427-0355 and speak to one of our doctors to determine which muscles you need to address appropriately to help you Move Better Feel Better and Live Better!