Are You Imbalanced?
We all have occasion to overuse certain muscles while others are underused. Muscles remember frequently used motor patterns and do them automatically. The overused muscles can become tight, inflamed and irritated, while underused muscles grow weak, which can lead to injury.
You can reduce the amount of uneven stress being placed on your body by developing better movement patterns and identifying the circumstances under which you place undue stress on one side of the body. The American Council on Exercise has identified some common habits that may contribute to muscular imbalance.
Avoid sleeping or standing in one position. Try sleeping on your back for part of the night, or, when laying on your side or stomach, switch sides. It will take some time to adjust to new sleeping patterns. If you catch yourself leaning on a counter or putting all your weight on one leg while standing, you could be creating imbalances. Instead, focus on standing with your legs hip-width apart and try closing your eyes. Slowly shift your weight from left and right. If one side feels more stable than the other, try to focus on shifting your weight to the non-dominant side when standing for long periods. Many people also lock their knees when standing still for any length of time. Soft knees keep the neighboring joints in a more neutral position and help keep blood flowing throughout the lower body.
If you cross your legs while sitting, take notice of which leg is crossed over top. Work on crossing the other leg over the top, especially if you experience any pain or discomfort while crossing your legs.
Do you carry everything (e.g., purses, children, groceries) on the same side of your body? After you identify which shoulder you use more for carrying, work on switching sides. Consider lightening up the load and taking more trips back and forth when carrying groceries or other items from the car.
Holding your phone or tablet at waist level means you have to constantly look down, which can cause neck strain. Instead, try to hold your devices closer to eye level and relax your shoulders. Consider checking email and watching videos at a desk with a larger computer.
If you’re an avid golf or tennis enthusiast, chances are one side of your body is more developed than the other. Of course, this can be hard to reverse. Take a few swings with the other side during your warm-up or cool-down. You can also work to train the other side of the body in the gym. Consider cross training to counter the effects of your sport during the off-season.