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Handbook to Healthier Movement: Warning Signs, Causes and Tips for Addressing Muscular Imbalance

It’s the end of a long workday at the office. You stand up out of your chair to pack up your belongings when you notice a sore lower back. You write it off as a result of prolonged sitting and decide to take a 10 minute walk down the New York City streets. That’s when you notice a biting pain in the back of your hip which causes you to walk a little lopsided. There’s no clear explanation for the pain, but your whole body feels as though it’s been hijacked.

Experiencing soreness and stiffness that seemingly comes out of nowhere is not normal

If you’re dealing with these symptoms, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional because they could be signs of muscular dysfunction or imbalance.

Muscular dysfunction can wreak havoc on your body causing pain, weakness and stiffness. If left unaddressed, they can interfere with your daily activities and even lead to chronic conditions. In this blog post, we'll explore warning signs and causes of muscular imbalances, as well as tactical ways to fix and prevent them. Ultimately, these solutions will help you restore balance, alleviate discomfort and improve your overall well-being.

3 Warning Signs of Muscular Dysfunction

Recognizing the symptoms of muscular dysfunction is crucial for maintaining optimal physical function and preventing further complications.

In this section, we'll explore three key indicators that can signify muscular dysfunction.

1. Noticeable Differences in Strength, Flexibility or Balance

If you notice a significant difference in strength, flexibility or balance between one side of your body and compared to the other, it may lead to a dysfunctional movement pattern. For example, one leg may feel weaker or tighter than the other, or you may struggle to maintain balance on one side.

2. Recurring Muscle Pain or Tension

If you’re constantly stretching but you still always feel “tight”, this could be a sign of muscular dysfunction. When the body isn’t recruiting the appropriate muscles during everyday activity, it can put unneeded stress on joints and ligaments. This can lead to strain and discomfort.

3. Limited Range of Motion from a Prior Injury

After an injury, muscles around the site can often tighten or even atrophy from disuse, leading to decreased mobility. Dysfunctional movement patterns may develop as other muscles and joints take on additional stress to compensate while you're injured.

5 Potential Causes of Muscular Imbalance

Muscular imbalances and dysfunction can occur due to various factors, affecting your posture, movement and overall well-being. Let's explore a few causes of muscular imbalance and how they can impact your physical health.

1. Poor Posture

Office workers, in particular, are susceptible to muscular imbalances due to prolonged sitting. Slouching, rounded shoulders and a forward head position can strain the muscles in your upper body which also affects the rest of your spine.

2. Training in Only One Sport or Targeting One Muscle Group

If your exercise routine revolves around a single sport or focuses too much on one muscle group, it's time to reassess your training. This imbalance can strain certain muscles while neglecting others, leading to pain and limited range of motion in neglected areas.

3. Sedentary Lifestyle

Living a sedentary lifestyle, characterized by long periods of inactivity, can contribute to muscular imbalances. When you lead a sedentary life, certain muscles become weak and underutilized while others become tight and overactive. This imbalance can affect your posture, movement patterns and overall musculoskeletal health.

4. Prior Injuries

Muscular imbalances can also arise as a result of previous injuries. When you experience an injury, certain muscles may become weakened or inhibited, while others compensate for the loss of function. This compensation pattern can persist even after the injury has healed, leading to ongoing imbalances and potential future injuries.

5. Repetitive Movement Patterns

Engaging in repetitive movements, especially from your job, can contribute to muscular imbalances. When you repeatedly perform the same movement pattern, certain muscles may become overworked while others are underutilized. Painters, hairdressers and construction workers are all examples of jobs that require repetitive movements.

PT Advice: How to Address Imbalances and Fix Your Movement Patterns

If you are experiencing any of the dysfunctional symptoms above, we recommend seeing one of our physical therapists at Park North in Harlem or Morningside Heights to get a tailored treatment plan.

Here are a few ways we can help you fix your movement patterns and live a pain-free lifestyle:

Comprehensive Assessment

At Park North, we’ll begin your journey by conducting comprehensive assessments to evaluate your posture, muscle strength, flexibility, balance and range of motion. Through these tests and measurements, we’ll identify the specific dysfunction movement patterns and their underlying causes. This assessment will serve as a foundation for designing an effective treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Targeted Exercise Programs

Based on the assessment findings, we will create targeted exercise programs to address the identified imbalances. These programs typically include a combination of stretching, strengthening and corrective exercises that target the affected muscles and promote symmetry. By focusing on both the overactive and underactive muscle groups, we can restore your body mechanics.

Manual Therapy Techniques

We may incorporate manual therapy techniques to complement the exercise programs. These techniques, such as soft tissue mobilization, cupping, joint mobilization and myofascial release, aim to reduce muscular tension and enhance your flexibility. By applying precise and controlled movements, we can help you correct imbalances.

Muscular Reeducation with PT Technology

At Park North, we utilize e-stimulation therapy to retrain muscles using low-amplitude electrical currents. Our NEUBIE device can bypass the brain to encourage your muscles to fire properly. This can rebuild the connection between the nervous system and the muscles, which is especially helpful after years of muscular dysfunction or post-injury

Cross-Training and Gradual Progression

We understand the importance of slowly adding load and diversifying your movement patterns. As you learn to address certain imbalances with our corrective exercise programs, we may also suggest cross-training with workouts like Pilates or swimming. This will ensure that you continue to progress as your body adapts. Regular monitoring and reassessment allow them to track your progress, make necessary adjustments and provide ongoing support and guidance throughout your recovery journey.

Don't Let Muscular Imbalances Affect Your Quality of Life

Recognizing the signs of muscular imbalance is the first step towards addressing them and restoring your functional movement. At Park North Physical Therapy, we’re uniquely positioned to help individuals overcome these muscular imbalances and prevent them from reoccurring.

Our customized treatment plans and use of innovative PT technology can alleviate pain, improve muscle strength and flexibility and enhance your overall well-being.

Take the first step towards restoring balance and regaining optimal function. Schedule an assessment with the experienced therapists at Park North Physical Therapy. Let us guide you on your journey to better musculoskeletal health and a pain-free, active lifestyle.

Contact Park North Physical Therapy