Most people come to physical therapy to heal from an injury or surgery, or to get relief from a chronic condition such as arthritis. Yet physical therapy has benefits for virtually everyone. Regardless of your current level of fitness, you may experience recurring aches and pains or even stiffness in one or more areas of your body. In many cases, these pains are caused by muscle imbalances that physical therapy can treat.
What Is Muscle Imbalance?
The over 600 individual muscles in the body are designed to work together to provide strength, dexterity, and stability for both gross and fine motor movements. Yet modern habits and even some common fitness routines can cause uneven strengthening, in which one muscle in a pair is over-exercised while its partner is under-utilized. Over time, this imbalance can also weaken the neural pathways that control muscle movements, leading to worsening problems.
What Causes Muscle Imbalance?
Muscle imbalance can have many different causes, but they can all be traced back to our conscious or subconscious choices. Some common causes include, but are not limited to:
- Insufficient Stretching: It is absolutely vital to stretch your muscles before and after any exercise, but many people neglect this crucial step. Insufficient stretching can cause the exercised muscles to tighten up, while weakening those that were not utilized during the workout.
- Poor Posture: Have you ever heard of “text neck”? This is a common result of today’s constant head-forward posture used by people who spend most of the day on their phones. Any form of poor posture can overwork some muscles while under-utilizing others, as humans were designed to stand and sit erect.
- Strength Training: Many people choose to do strength training on specific muscles, such as the biceps. But if you don’t equally exercise the muscle’s opposite, such as the triceps, you will induce a muscle imbalance.
Diagnosing Muscle Imbalance
Your physical therapist will begin with a detailed assessment. He or she will take a look at your seated and standing posture, as well as your gait. Your therapist may also have you perform specific movements to test your flexibility and range of motion, and may manually check for tightness in your muscles and tendons. If you have X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds, be sure to bring them to your appointment so that your therapist can determine whether there are any underlying injuries.
Treating Muscle Imbalance
Muscle imbalance is treated with a targeted program designed to re-balance your muscles. Depending on the results of your assessment, this may include:
- Ice, heat, and/or ultrasound to reduce inflammation and pain
- Manual massage such as myofascial release
- Stretching tight muscles
- Working out weak muscles with weight machines, free weights, and/or stretch bands
- Core strength and stability exercises
- Repetitive drills to retrain the neural pathways
You will also receive instructions on exercises to perform IN CLINIC under the watchful supervision of our dedicated team.
After Physical Therapy
At or before your last appointment, we will help you develop the body awareness needed to prevent poor habits from recurring, and educate you on ways to avoid muscle imbalances in your daily life.
If you are in the market for a customized, innovative approach to physical therapy, please call Raritan Physical Therapy at (732) 662-4400 to schedule your initial assessment.