Joint pain or injury is common. Neck pain, back pain, hip, shoulder, elbow or knee pain is annoying! This is an important article that could make the world of difference to you if you have any of this.
Even elite athletes have these same issues.
“Muscle imbalances exist in a wide range of athletes performing at the elite level and may be related to injury occurrence” (1).
Many patients go from one Dr or specialist to another without resolution of their musculoskeletal complaint. Sometimes underlying these physical problems are muscle imbalances.
When you have joint pain you feel down and frustrated, it is hard to be in the moment, to be 100% present and to truly enjoy life. It is hard to know what to do, there seems to be many options….
When you see someone who lives and breathes treating muscle imbalance every day, someone who is fanatical and is energised every single time they get a win for their patients, you’ll finally be in the right hands so that you can get the care you deserve, get back to loving your life of activity and being more “you”.
If you’ve ever wanted to move towards living your life pain free then keep reading, this information might just change your life.
The muscles we are talking about here are skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles work because the brain and nervous system control them; as such, it should be referred to as a neuromuscular system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, the muscles, and the nerves that connect them.
Basically muscles can range from very loose muscles that are very weak with no perceivable contraction, to the other extreme of hypertonic or very tight muscles.
As an example, in the sitting position put your hands around your thigh muscle (upper leg about a hands width above your knee), contract your thigh by straightening your leg (make sure to leave the foot on the ground, simply slide it along) and feel the top muscle (quads) contract, at the same time the bottom muscle (hamstrings) will relax. If you do the opposite the hamstrings will contract and the quads will relax.
If these muscles did not behave in this way it would be a disaster. Imagine if the top muscle held on while the bottom muscle tried to contract. The joint could tear, be compressed or may not move at all. Now imagine that when we bend or walk the thousands of nerve signals and muscle contractions that have to occur in precisely the right sequence and force that are imperative for proper function.
A muscle that stays too relaxed is referred to as abnormal inhibition and sometimes called “weak” (although this is not true weakness, which refers to the lack of power). In most cases, this inhibition causes an opposite muscle to become too tight, a condition called abnormal facilitation. Together, these abnormal muscles (muscle imbalance) can adversely affect the joint(s) they control, the tendons they’re attached to, and other muscles, ligaments, bones, and body areas (such as the pelvic, spine, or head) all over. This will also cause an imbalance in posture and an irregular gait and often eventually pain. Studies demonstrate that trunk eccentric/concentric and flexion/extension strength imbalances may be associated to episodes or chronic prevalence of LBP (2).
At Little Sprouts (yes we see adults too) we work out muscle imbalance through postural observation, and then testing individually around 80 muscles on your body. We also look at excess bulking or reduction in size of a muscle from one side of the body to another.
We run an electromyographic (EMG) scan, which is a scan to give feedback on muscle activity of the spine from the neck to the pelvis. Studies using EMG are commonly used in research and by clinicians to treat various types of muscle problems. Like most other muscle evaluations, there are no clear standards for gathering and assessing different types of EMG findings. However, comparing before and after treatment measurements can be very useful to determine whether improvements are being made and which therapies may be most successful.
We also use manual muscle testing. Manual muscle testing involves physically evaluating individual muscles. This is accomplished by first positioning an arm, leg, or other body part associated with a particular muscle’s action. In this position, the practitioner applies force against the patient’s force from that particular muscle. Weakness due to abnormal inhibition may exist if the resistive force cannot properly be maintained, or sometimes if there is excessive pain.
Properly done, manual muscle testing can help differentiate between neuromuscular imbalance, and exercise imbalance.
If any of this relates to you then you’ll be glad to learn that we would love to see if we can help you. We promise not to waste your time or money!
Did you know… The way you’re sitting in your chair RIGHT NOW might be predisposing you to neck pain. This is an important article for you and anyone you know that uses a desk daily.
“Slump sitting” also referred to as upper or proximal crossed syndrome is associated with neck flexion and forward head carriage which causes an imbalance of muscles in the neck and upper body (1). Often when sitting at desks for long periods of time, our important spinal and neck stabilizing muscles fatigue which can result in the recruitment of larger associated muscles. We often see hypertonic (too tight) pectoral and upper trapezius muscles in conjunction with hypotonic (weak) deep neck flexors and rhomboid muscles. Slump sitting and the imbalance of muscles that usually result from it, can also be accompanied by neck tension and pain.
Office workers with and without neck pain were found to have a 10% increase in forward head posture from their relaxed sitting postures when working with a computer (2). This suggests that office workers [or anyone who works with a computer including school aged children and teenagers] is at risk of developing forward head posture along with postural fatigue that we see in upper crossed syndrome.
The good news though is that there is strong evidence to support the effectiveness of endurance and strengthening exercises for treating non-specific neck pain in office workers (1). Exercises to strengthen the deep neck flexors and to encourage mobility of the spine can be found in the link below. Little Sprouts Chiropractic offers these to you for free as we are always striving to help you reach your BEST life possible!