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A Deeper Look Into Spine Muscle Imbalances

Updated on January 14, 2020
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Bing Xi is a Rehab Essentials certified personal trainer who helped clients overcome muscle imbalances.

What is a Spine Muscle Imbalance?

Muscle imbalance is a deviation of the actual relative activity levels from the optimal relative activity levels of the involved muscles, causing compensations, inhibition of muscles and inefficiency in movements. At the spine, this imbalance can be at the low back or neck. Depending on the severity, a spine muscle imbalance can spread and cause more imbalances, increase injury risks, cause poor posture and contribute to chronic pain, especially to the whole body. It is common for everyone to have some form of spine imbalances, which tend to be more infectious to other parts due to the connectivity of the spine.


To illustrate a muscle imbalance simplistically, imagine a rod being pivoted on one end with two strings attached to the rod on the other end. The strings' tension are pulling the rod to pivot in opposite directions. Both strings need to have certain tension in them to stabilize the rod either when stationary or when pivoting in either direction, in different positions and speeds, depending on the rod's weight, center of gravity, position and properties of the pivot. If either string does not have the ability to withstand certain amount of tension, the rod would be unstable under certain circumstances. That would lead to jerky and inefficient movements of the rod as well as wear and tear on the the rod, pivot and the strings.


The rod in the previous paragraph can be someone's lower limb while the two strings can be two different muscles attached to the limb that facilitate movements of the limb. A muscle imbalance would lead to inefficient movements of the lower limb, instability of the joints and greater risks of injury. To minimize these, it is important to strengthen both muscles to enable them to take more tension and also to be optimally activated relatively to one another in order not for one to be overly tensed up compared to the other.

Pivoting wooden rod

Source

Concerns of a big Spine Muscle Imbalance

On top of the compensations that can spread to other body parts, leading to more imbalances, potentially causing a vicious cycle of injuries and chronic pain like for all muscle imbalances, spine ones tend to be more detrimental to neural health due to the spine's proximity to the central nervous system.

Common Spine Muscle Imbalances

In general, the common muscle imbalances involve over-active "pro-gravity" muscles and under-active "anti-gravity" muscles. Some of these "pro-gravity" and "anti-gravity" muscles are commonly targeted muscles in physiotherapy and rehabilitation in both recuperation and prevention from injuries.


To illustrate "pro-gravity" and "anti-gravity", imagine someone standing tall, weight evenly distributed on both feet, arms hanging loose by the side, head, chest and hips facing the front squarely. If this guy were to lose consciousness without any warning, he would collapse with certain movement patterns. These patterns are the common muscle imbalances with involved shortened muscles being "pro-gravity" while the lengthened muscles being "anti-gravity". Since tensing a muscle usually involves shortening it while relaxing a muscle usually involve lengthening it, "pro-gravity" muscles are usually over-activated while "anti-gravity" muscles are usually under-activated. These terms "pro-gravity" and "anti-gravity" are used because muscles that contributes to the movement patterns in favor of gravity are considered "pro-gravity" while those that oppose these movement patterns are considered "anti-gravity".


Some common terms in spine imbalances include kyphosis and lordosis.

Common Spine Imbalances

Source

List of common Spine Muscle Imbalances

From my learnings in school, Rehab Essentials and as a fitness instructor, I have come across a number of muscle imbalances spanning across the whole body from top to toes, including the spine, at the low back and neck.


At the low back, the imbalances can occur in the manners of anterior pelvic tilt and posterior pelvic tilt.

In the manner of anterior pelvic tilt, a muscle imbalance revolves around TFL, rectus femoris, iliacus, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi and abdominals

In the manner of posterior pelvic tilt, a muscle imbalance revolves around gluteals, hamstrings, adductor magnus, piriformis, superficial abdominals, psoas, erector spinae and multifidus.


At the neck, the imbalances can occur in the manners of forward chin and head tilt/turn.

In the manner of forward chin, a muscle imbalance revolves around sternocleidomastoid, levator scap and upper trapezius.

In the manner of head tilt/turn, a muscle imbalance also revolves around sternocleidomastoid, levator scap and upper trapezius, as well as scalenes.

Spine Muscle Imbalances overview

Low back
Neck
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Forward Chin
Posterior Pelvic Tilt
Head tilt/turn

Low Back Muscle Imbalances overview

Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Posterior Pelvic Tilt
TFL
Gluteal
Rectus femoris
Hamstrings
Iliacus
Adductor magnus
Quadratus lumborum
Piriformis
Latissimus dorsi
Superficials abdominals
Abdominals
Psoas
 
Erector spinae
 
Multifidus

Low Back Muscle Imbalances

Source

Neck Muscle Imbalances overview

Forward chin
Head tilt/turn
Sternocleidomastoid
Sternocleidomastoid
Levator scap
Levator scap
Upper trapezius
Upper trapezius
 
Scalenes

Neck Muscle Imbalances

Source

Conclusion

To conclude, everyone has very high chances of having muscle imbalances due to the nature of us gravitating towards certain movement patterns. Most of the issues faced by everyone having muscle imbalances would be as mild as the daily minor aches and pains. However, in the event of sever cases, someone can get injured or trapped in a chronic pain vicious cycle.


Specifically for spine imbalances, the proximity between the central nervous system and the spine as well as their connectivity between the lower and upper body makes them more likely to spread. Among the two different regions of spine muscle imbalances, low back and neck, which region do you think you have the most imbalances? Share with me in the comments below!

Pain relief by managing Spine Muscle Imbalances

I do work closely with individuals to relief chronic and recurring pain by managing spine muscle imbalances as part of a holistic pain solution illustrated in my other article "Permanent Relief From Recurring Pain".

Apart from that, I also work on managing muscle imbalances, illustrated in my other article "A Deeper Look Into Muscle Imbalances".

Contact me for more information if you are looking to manage muscle imbalances or holistically overcome ongoing pain!


© 2019 Bing Xi

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