What is muscle imbalance?

Normally, muscles use a combination of contraction and relaxation to enable body movement. When muscular imbalances occur, two or more muscles don’t contract and relax as they should.

For example, when the biceps muscle on the front of the upper arm contracts and the triceps muscle on the back of the arm relaxes it enables your elbow to move.

When there are muscular imbalances, the biceps remains contracted and the triceps remains relaxed.

Muscular imbalances are often due to brain or spinal cord injury. People who suffer from cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or even strokes often have muscular imbalances.

Abnormal inhibition and facilitation

Abnormal inhibition is when a muscle is lengthened. When inhibition occurs, it causes the opposite muscle to become too tight. This is known as abnormal facilitation.

Abnormal facilitation often occurs as the body tries to compensate for abnormal inhibition. The tightened muscle becomes uncomfortable and painful. It can restrict movement and flexibility.

While you might try to fix this imbalance by stretching, you could risk weakening the muscle that is already over-stretched.

Abnormal inhibition and facilitation can affect your joints, tendons, ligaments, bones and other muscles. It can also impact your pelvis, spine, and head.

These imbalances can cause bad posture and an irregular gait.

Types of muscular imbalances

There are two different types of muscle imbalances that can occur:

  1. Neuromuscular imbalance, which is usually caused by the brain, spinal cord or muscle itself.
  2. Exercise imbalance, which is usually caused by training one muscle more than another.

Causes of muscular imbalances

Muscular imbalances can be caused by a number of things:

  1. Poor muscle development

Poor muscle development is usually caused by exercise imbalance. This is when you have chronic exercise imbalances from training one muscle harder than the other, poor running gait, or overtraining muscles.

  1. Poor lifestyle habits

Muscular imbalances, owing to the way you perform everyday tasks, are a thing! Lifting something without using the right set of muscles, being overweight or underweight, or even using the right hand more than your left.

Things that go even less unnoticed are regularly wearing the wrong shoes, sitting for too long or even typing repetitively.

All these things, while they seem petty, are very important for muscle balance.

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  1. Injuries

Injuries ranging from a twisted ankle to whiplash during a car accident can also cause muscular imbalances.

  1. Chronic and acute illness

Diabetes, sarcopenia, chronic inflammation, arthritis, obesity, and more illnesses can cause muscular imbalances. This is because some of these illnesses reduce neuromuscular function or muscle mass owing to ageing. In addition, it results in less physical activity.

  1. Neurological disorders

Coming in under neuromuscular imbalances are Parkinson’s disease, strokes, birth trauma, head trauma, and spinal cord trauma. These can all cause muscular imbalances.

  1. Nutrition

Another thing we are hardly ever aware of is how our diets influence the way our muscles develop. Low protein diets, dehydration, anaemia, low blood sugar and general malnutrition have an impact on your muscles.

  1. Stress

Falling under both neuromuscular and exercise imbalances is stress. This is the most common cause of muscle imbalances, whether it is physical, chemical or mental.

Our muscles are perhaps one of the most important parts to make the body function and need extra special attention. The slightest form of stress, injury, illness or even the most uninformed way of doing things can cause muscular imbalances. These not only cause an uncomfortable lifestyle but can lead to severe injuries.

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