A muscle imbalance occurs when the structure of connective tissue or muscles changes in a manner that causes joint misalignment. This type of imbalance can lead to joint strain and subsequently put too much pressure (compression) on the nerves in the affected region. When this happens, chronic pain may develop. If the body attempts to lessen the pain through readjustment, additional muscles, ligaments, tendons, or connective tissue may become imbalanced—eventually making the pain even worse.
For instance, repetitive movements with the right side of the body (e.g., right hand and arm) may cause pain as muscles on that particular side begin to weaken or become inflamed. In order to compensate for the discomfort, an individual may try to switch to the other side of the body. This cycle can gradually lead to muscle imbalances on both sides. In such cases, an individual may experience persistent pain in different parts of the body.
Poor posture such as sitting in front of a desk in a slouched position for extended periods can also lead to muscle imbalances. Even though dealing with muscle imbalance sounds like a never-ending battle, there are several strategies that target this issue.
These include finding ways to:
- Mobilize the joints
- Strengthen weak muscles
- Improve movement control
- Correct postural problems and poor body alignment
- Relax soft, connective tissues and short, tight muscles
- Identify and change lifestyle/work factors that are contributing to the muscle imbalance
However, one of the first strategies to consider when experiencing chronic pain in a specific part of the body is to rest the area for a short time period. Resting the affected region is ideal for minor strains as it takes pressure off of the joints and nerves. This also gives the body a chance to start recovering from the muscle imbalance. People who have busy lifestyles or strenuous jobs that require repetitive tasks should make an effort to avoid movements that worsen pain for a few days if possible, before resuming normal activities.
If the pain persists or worsens, that means it may be time to speak with a Physical Therapist. It is especially important to seek help from a professional if nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen only provide temporary pain relief. Chronic pain indicates that a more serious problem may be causing the discomfort. If the issue is an unaddressed muscle imbalance, the symptoms will continue to get worse without proper treatment.
If you’re suffering from chronic pain that you believe is due to a muscle imbalance, the Physical Therapists at Cascade 205 Physical Therapy can perform a comprehensive assessment to help you determine the underlying cause. Our highly-skilled experts can also establish a Physical Therapy regimen that meets your specific needs. The therapeutic plan may include joint mobilization, strength training, and therapeutic stretching exercises as these approaches help improve imbalances through enhanced physical conditioning.
In addition, working closely with a Physical Therapist is a beneficial way to support recovery and reduce the risk of experiencing discomfort caused by recurring muscle imbalances. Physical Therapists have comprehensive knowledge about body structure and function that allows them to make accurate diagnoses and offer effective treatment plans.
Call Cascade 205 Physical Therapy today to speak with trained professionals who can provide you with the services you need to enjoy life with less pain.
1. Wilczynski J, Kasprzak A. Dynamics of Changes in Isometric Strength and Muscle Imbalance in the Treatment of Women with Low back Pain. Biomed Res Int. 2020; 2020: 6139535.
2. Kim T, Kil S, et al. Effects of specific muscle imbalance improvement training on the balance ability in elite fencers. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(5):1589-1592.Farquharson C, Greig M. Temporal pattern of kinesiology tape efficacy on hamstring extensibility. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Dec;10(7):984-91.
3. Langford ML. Poor posture subjects a worker's body to muscle imbalance, nerve compression. Occup Health Saf. 1994;63(9):38-40.
4. Mersmann F, et al. Imbalances in the Development of Muscle and Tendon as Risk Factor for Tendinopathies in Youth Athletes: A Review of Current Evidence and Concepts of Prevention. Front Physiol. 2017;8:987.
5. Kim JW, Gong WT, Hwang BJ: Effects of lumbar resistance and stabilization complex exercises on extremity muscle strength and endurance of normal adults. J Phys Ther Sci, 2011, 23: 645–649.