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How Muscle Imbalance Can Cause Body Pain

Updated on July 15, 2011

Muscle Imbalance and Chronic Pain

Did you know that having a muscle imbalance might be the root cause for chronic muscle pain, body pain or joint pain?

Muscle imbalance can include pulled muscles, trigger points, poor posture, sciatica, sprains or sometimes herniated discs.

Body Pain Comes on Suddenly

Keeping muscles toned is important because when they are not equally toned, left, right, front to back, they are said to be imbalanced. When this happens the imbalances will cause body pain as it creates postural impairment, which could be shoulders that are hunched, slouching and tipped pelvis. If your posture is poor, it could lead to abnormal curvature of the spine.

Over time this can lead to chronic muscle pain, body pain and joint pain resulting from joint break down, muscle trigger points, and ligaments that tighten and muscles that fail to contract properly.

This chronic body pain resulting from muscle imbalance doesn’t happen overnight or in one day. It happens slowly -- it can take months and even years to develop. However, the pain and postural dysfunctions can be sudden or at least you think its sudden.

If it takes months or years, why does it seem the pain is sudden? You woke up one morning and you had a pain in your neck and you say to yourself, “Hmm, I must have slept wrong.” Or your lower back starts to cause you pain and you think, “I must have lifted that box incorrectly.” Because your muscles are imbalanced, it just took one last movement to induce the pain.

Types of Pain

There are two types of pain resulting from muscle imbalances - localized and referred (reflective) pain.  A tight muscle around your shoulder blade (scapula) can cause pain to radiate (be felt) in your chest and above your eyes.  Many headaches are associated with tightness in the shoulder blade muscles (scapula).

If you have weak abdominal muscles sometimes low back pain can be felt. What happens is that your abdomen sags forward which cause your low back to sway.  This can also pinch or irritate the sciatic nerve.

Relieving this type of pain is difficult with the anti-inflammatory treatments and medications.  It relieves the pain temporarily, but does not correct the cause.  The pain will return once the medication is stopped.  

Take the Test

Here’s a quick test to see if you might have a muscle imbalance. Take a step forward and raise your right leg and at the same time bring your arms straight up over your head. Can you hold yourself there for about 20 seconds or are you wobbly and feel like you will fall over? Now do the same thing on your left leg. You might find one side stronger than the other.

If you want to make the test more difficult, try it with 3 or 5 pound hand weights and bring those weights up over your head.  Do be careful with the weights and make sure you have someone spotting you just in case you lose your balance.

The one thing great about body pain, muscle pain or joint pain as a result of muscle imbalances it that you can correct them. You can work with a physical trainer, physical therapist or other body-centered therapist working with stretching, tightening and toning your muscles.

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