By Brandy Coghill, BSc, R.Kin
It's been a while since we've had a guest feature, and as always it's a real treat when one of our trusted colleagues contributes to our newsletter. If you read these newsletters/blogs, you know how important I believe structural balance is for overall health. So, I was thrilled to have this month's feature writer Brandy Coghill's piece on Muscle Imbalance included! I'm often asked about training for imbalances and I rarely have time in my schedule to accommodate. Having seen her work with patients first hand at Active Life, I would highly recommend you see Brandy. As you'll see from the article below, she's super passionate and knowledgeable! This article contains some powerful diagrams for visual reference. Please enjoy this piece from Brandy Coghill.
Don't Let this be you!
Muscle imbalances within our body is not uncommon in today’s world. Our lifestyle can really affect how we contort our bodies, and we can see this occur from activities of daily living or as a result of injuries that might occur. Once we have developed a specific pattern of movement our physical and mental state will make note of these patterns and this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how it effects your body. Just as we can pick up good habits, we can pick up bad ones too and this is why it is important to recognize how you position your body and how you execute your movements in everything you do. Consider the some of the things that take place in your day to day and how it might affect posture or centre of gravity. When one or more of our muscles becomes weak, we will compensate with other muscles causing them to become overactive and this will disrupt the kinetic chain within our body. This disruption of the kinetic chain will affect your joints causing areas of the body that are supposed to act as stabilizers to become unstable and areas that are supposed to be mobile will become stiff and this is where a viscous cycle begins. Imbalances within the body are followed by compensations leading to more imbalance which causes more potential for injury and pain. We can also see these imbalances result in loss of efficiency within our movement causing us to need more energy to execute proper movement and therefore bringing on more fatigue. More fatigue means wanting to move less and moving less is very detrimental to our health both physically and mentally.
This is a picture of the body’s kinetic chain and a representation of what happens if one link in the chain is disrupted. Consider an ankle sprain, the collapsing of your ankle can cause rotation at the knee which in turn leads to a drop on one side of the hip and your shoulders will then follow. As each imbalance travels up or down the kinetic chain our movement becomes less efficient. Imbalances don’t just occur as a result of injury but can also occur from repetitive movement. Repetitive movement, whether sports related, or work related can cause imbalances. Consider sports such as golfing, soccer, or even baseball, the side you swing the club or the bat or with soccer the leg you kick with can all lad to imbalances which could later affect your performance, cause pain or increase the potential for injury.
Janda’s upper crossed and lower crossed muscle imbalances paint a good picture of overactive and under active muscles in our bodies.
Inhibited muscles are weak whereas facilitated muscles are often tight and overactive. Muscles become either weak or too tight as a result of our posture. Sitting down frequently can cause tight hip flexors leading to weak glutes and core this can lead to a variety of problems such a poor gait and low back pain. We often experience tight chest and tight anterior neck muscles from rounding our shoulders and letting our head hang past our shoulders this can lead to neck pain reduced mobility in our shoulders and loss of stability in our shoulder blades.
Muscle balance is a viscous cycle. It can start from an injury or from poor posture and movement execution, in the end one muscle imbalance will lead to many more. Most imbalances are not always caught in the early stages and this can lead to joint and tissue damage if not addressed.
To sum it all up, all muscles matter! Quality is more important than quantity and consistency is key to seeing improvement. Chances are if you are feeling pain or stiffness or maybe struggling to execute certain movements you might need to work on balancing those imbalances. It is not always easy to recognize where the imbalances are occurring and the longer these imbalances are neglected the harder it can be to correct and can potentially lead to injury and cause pain. Having a kinesiologist or therapist conduct an assessment to pinpoint those imbalances can help you narrow down your imbalances so that you can focus on correcting them.
Once you know where the imbalances are how do you fix it?
The best place to start is with a coach so they can help you work on developing your proprioception. Proprioception is the connection between your body and your mind to increase your awareness of movement patterns such as the location and direction of your movements and what muscles are doing the work. You can improve proprioception by having a coach to help cue you so that you can begin to recognize your movements, this will also help keep you on track to prevent improper form which would lead you back to that viscous cycle of muscular imbalances.
The cumulative injury cycle: A practical model for injury prevention. SaltWrap. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://saltwrap.com/blog/cumulative-injury-cycle/
The Janda approach to chronic pain syndromes. Performance Health Academy. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.performancehealthacademy.com/the-janda-approach-to-chronic-pain-syndromes.html
Kinetic chain release (KCR). Carrick Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from http://carrickclinic.co.uk/treatments/kinetic-chain-release/
Some helpful sources to look at:
Book: Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach
I hope that you found this information helpful and as always, this article is for educational purposes only. Please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises or protocols, as the content of this article may or may not be appropriate for you.
About The Author: Brandy Coghill, BSc, R.Kin.
Brandy graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber with a BSc in kinesiology and is now a registered kinesiologist with experience in performance related training as well as therapy-based sessions. She currently provides fundamental training for the general population and also provides training for athletes looking to meet goals and improve performance or for individuals with injuries/post-surgery who are looking to get back at what they love doing the most.
Brandy is currently offering group sessions as well as private or semi-private sessions at Active Life Conditioning. Tax deductible semi-private kinesiology sessions are also offered and are also included under some extended healthcare plans.