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Muscle Imbalance can mean a world of pain!!

Front of thigh muscles from Gray's Anatomy of ...
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Most of us don’t think about our muscles and how they work until something goes wrong and they hurt or are swollen.  We wonder why they hurt and often can’t find a reason!  Many of us realize that we have muscle pain, but have had no event or injury to explain this new pain.

Muscles are made of slow twitch and fast twitch fibers.  Slow twitch muscles are postural muscles that are contracting at a very “slow twitch” for long periods.  These muscles are designed to hold up our head or support our trunk.  Fast twitch muscles respond to the command of our brain to pick up a pen, throw a ball, or run.  Muscles may work individually or in groups. Rotator cuff muscles work together to lift your arm and the quadriceps muscles straighten your knee.  Every muscle however does have its own job to do and is sensitive to neighboring muscles that are not doing their fair share.  This is one way muscle imbalance may start.  Muscle A is weak, so its buddy Muscle B starts to work harder, only it’s now doing a job that it wasn’t designed to do.  As muscle holding continues and Muscle B is working harder, there is less blood getting to the muscle which means less oxygen.  This is how the cycle of cramping and pain can start.

Another common cause of muscle imbalance is poor mechanics.  For example, in the foot something may stimulate you to start walking on the outside of your foot, maybe a cut on your big toe or something you are unaware of.  Over time the quadriceps muscle on the outside of your upper thigh may fire more and the inside muscle may fire less.  Now we are set up for patellar femoral syndrome where the patella (kneecap) tracks laterally instead of in the center.  This causes pain with squatting and stairs and is almost always related to muscle imbalance.

Physical Therapists are experts on movement and things that go: muscles and joints.  We are uniquely trained to assess muscles and joints that are painful and not working correctly.  This may require gait analysis or muscle testing which is often easy and pain free.  Sandpoint has many skilled PT s to help patients figure out why they are having pain.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council and the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy.  She can be reached for questions at 290-5575 or on the web at www.MtnViewPT.com.

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