Your muscles provide dexterity, strength, and stability for your body. While these muscles are designed to work together in order to achieve movement and activity, frequent use and repetitive motions, like those performed during athletic training and competition can strengthen some muscle groups while ignoring others. If the growth and development of one, or a group of muscles, persists, while others remain stagnant, it creates a condition known as muscle imbalance. Muscle imbalances, when left untreated can lead to a persisting growth in the weakness of certain muscles; eventually forcing the neural pathways in these muscles to have less control. However, muscle imbalances can be corrected, and neural pathways reactivated through physical therapy.
What are Risk Factors for the Development of Muscle Imbalances?
Muscle imbalances can occur without you even realizing it. For athletes and active people this condition can stem from your routine and activity level. If aren’t stretching long enough, often enough, or correctly, tight muscles can develop and miss out on strengthening opportunities, falling behind their corresponding muscle group. Certain muscles work in opposition of one another, like biceps and triceps. The way these muscles are exercised, and correspondingly grow can be knocked out of balance if they aren’t worked out evenly. Poor posture is another factor that can lead to muscle imbalances. Slouching and a persistent head-down posture that occurs from looking a phone, tablet, or computer can impact the upper torso and neck.
How Can Physical Therapy Correct a Muscle Imbalance?
After assessing your posture, range of motion, flexibility, and gait an experienced physical therapist will be able to identify any muscle imbalances. Once the location and severity of an imbalance are determined, a plan for strengthening the weaker muscles and balancing the muscle group can begin. A progressive treatment regimen that includes stretching, manual therapy, strengthening, specific exercises, and inflammation-reducing techniques can correct imbalances and restore the full use, strength, and health of your muscles.
By stretching the tighter muscles that have shrunk due to the growth of the stronger muscles, they can be rebalanced and begin to work properly. The strengthening of the contracted muscle can be done through free weights, machines, and resistance bands. These exercises should be focused in a few different ways. Focusing on one side of the body, exercising within an opposing muscle group, and core strengthening can help to equalize function and promote stability in your entire body. Weaker muscles and dormant neural connections can be reactivated and sharpened through repetitive drills. If inflammation is causing issues with your ability to strengthen and balance muscle groups, ultrasound, heat, and ice therapies can relieve it. Lastly, manual therapy and massage can be very effective in getting weaker muscles back into the proper shape and functioning properly.
If you have developed a muscle imbalance, suffered an injury, or need help regaining flexibility, range or motion, or mobility, the expert staff at Evolve Physical Therapy in Baton Rouge offers the latest technology and techniques to get you moving again.