Author | DIAKADI Intern Ron Michelson It’s Friday and after a long week of work or a few sessions of lifting weights, how do your shoulders and back feel? Our daily routines cause muscle imbalances restricting healthy joint movement. Some imbalances are profoundly evidenced as lower back pain while other imbalances not so pronounced affect the intensity of a workout for a specific muscle group.
How does that happen?
Once a muscle becomes tight, it contracts and may be unable to relax fully while the opposite overstretched muscle becomes weak and unable to contract when needed for the movement of the joint. For example, hip flexors may be too tight while the opposing gluteals are weak causing the pelvis to pull forward, as in repetitive activities such as sitting at the computer.
Injury can also cause imbalances, forcing the body to compensate by shifting the work of a joint to a less ideal muscle. Conversely, people with great fitness intentions often use the same work out program for years, not exercising complimentary muscles equally which, too, causes imbalances.
Another effect beyond the imbalance itself and according to the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is when “A muscle that is chronically semi-contracted (tight) causes metabolic dysfunction within the muscle tissues. It also squeezes blood vessels and nerves running through the muscle. This interferes with healthy blood supply and proper nerve signaling”.
Imbalances cause pain in two ways—
Directly-Muscles that are tight all of the time become strained as in the example of the pelvis tilting forward. There may be pain in the lower back as the muscles compensate for the imbalances of the hip flexors and the gluteals.
Creating a Condition -The long-term compression on the discs caused by the curvature of the spine as the pelvis is pulled down can eventually lead to break down of the discs (bulge or rupture).
What can you do to alleviate the pain and discomfort?
Develop a focus on proper motion, posture and the abilities of the body while strengthening the core and lower back so the muscles balance correctly on the skeletal structure. This balance will also promote more efficient and naturally flowing breathing plus is helpful in dissipating common back pain. Some of the more accessible core techniques include Pilates or a devoted core/abdominal exercise program as part of a regular fitness regimen.
Taking a moment to stretch the pelvic/hip area after a period of sitting at a desk will reduce the tendency for the hip flexors to tighten. And rotating the kinds of exercises in your fitness program will not only exercise the opposing muscles evenly, it may just help keep you from getting bored!