Muscle Imbalance & Joint Pain: How to Avoid and Correct

Seemingly more and more people suffer from chronic pain in joints or muscles either during exercise, work, or even leisure activities. When asking what the cause of this pain might be injury may be a common answer, but perhaps the most overlooked reason is constant use or improper use of the muscle or joints during activities. The idea of overuse is probably not new to you, but it is worth looking into proper use and corrective exercise to combat issues.

Naturally the best approach is to try to avoid ever developing issues such as imbalances, injury, or overuse. Proper warmups, stretching, and a well-thought-through exercise plan are all great tools to do this. Proper form is without a doubt the best way to avoid injury and develop strength or muscle size.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned, but recognizing and knowing how to cope with unexpected joint and muscle pain can help minimize its long-term effects. A common issue causing major joint pain or lack of function is an imbalance of the muscles surrounding the joint. This occurs when one or more muscle groups are stronger than the others causing the joint to be strained or pulled in an odd direction. A great example of this is constant pain or discomfort in the front of the shoulder, sometimes called bench press shoulder. The muscles of the chest and front deltoid (shoulder) become strong during exercise and pull the shoulders forward into an unnatural position. To help avoid or correct this a person should focus of strengthening the rear deltoid and upper back muscles so the joints rest in a more natural position.

An approach that I use and would recommend is to think about the muscle group you want to target and which muscles perform the opposite movement. For example, if the goal is to

have a stronger bench press, it is important to also strengthen the muscles of the upper and middle back to allow the joints to handle additions in strength. Some great exercises for this include reverse flys, face pulls, any variation of a row exercise, and lat pull downs.

Perhaps a more common problem for a lot of people is lower back and hip tightness or pain. Again, the major cause for this, aside from injury, is a lack of balance between muscle groups. At first thought to solve a sore back the solution would be to stretch or massage the muscles in the area. While this will help alleviate the pain, it doesn’t really solve the problem. For long term results it is most likely necessary to strengthen all the muscles in the area. Tight glutes and hamstrings can cause the hips to rotate backwards while overdeveloped hip flexors and quads can pull them forwards. In either situation pain can be the result.

To sum up this topic, always remember to work muscle groups evenly for a well-rounded approach to be a stronger and more comfortable mover. Think about which muscles are associated with different joints and be sure to work them in all directions to keep things nice and balanced. In addition to this stretching, foam rolling and other types of recovery work will aid in avoiding or solving joint and muscle pain.

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