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Muscle Imbalances in the Back, Pt. 2

In the first part of this article, we looked at some of the most common causes of imbalances in the back and neck muscles. Here, we'll look at some ways in which such imbalances can be treated and avoided.

So, what is the answer-how can such imbalances be avoided--or treated? The simple answer is that it can be viewed as a three-step process.

The first step is to understand how to sit, stand, move, and exercise in a balanced way in order to minimize muscle stress.

  • Proper sitting posture: Sit with your feet flat on the floor, knees level with or slightly above the buttocks and hips back as far as possible. Sit up as straight and tall as you can and then relax slightly. A firm seat is best and a lumbar roll or similar form of support behind the lower back can be very helpful. Keep your head up. When writing, use a flat surface and use your eyes to look downward instead of flexing your neck forward. When reading, move the material upward so your head stays up.
  • Stretching: Tight muscles in the front of your neck can restrict blood flow to the thyroid gland, slowing metabolism. Some people experience weight loss after having these muscles treated. The head-forward position also affects the mid- and lower back, leading to a hunched-over posture. Many of these conditions can be corrected with a good, though not necessarily comprehensive, stretching program. A non-comprehensive program can be simple, easy to follow, and effective reducing stress and tension and preventing lower back and neck pain.
  • Restoring Balance to the Musculoskeletal Structure: The third (and most comprehensive) step is to balance the body's musculoskeletal structure. Since bones are moved by muscles, muscles are the. An exercise program should be balanced and all opposing muscle groups should be included. It's not uncommon for people to work on muscles in the chest far more than they do those in their back. This can result in an imbalance in the shoulder joints, leading to shoulder pain and dysfunction and/or neck and upper-back problems. When there is tightness and imbalance from muscle damage or improper training, it is important restore that balance.

Many therapists and doctors stretch tight muscles and strengthen their antagonists. This approach is helpful in many cases, particularly where large muscles are affected, but it has its own limitations. It often begins an extended program of stretching and strengthening an imbalance, which obviously takes time and provides essentially temporary relief. The benefits of such a program will be limited if the muscle damage is not treated equally on each side of the body. Another approach is simple in concept but can be more complex in its application: Muscle damage is broken up using targeted, precise treatments so the affected areas can heal and return to their normal length. This can occur in comparatively few sessions and can essentially restore the area to normal.

Balance is key in most aspects of exercise--working to maintain a strong and healthy back is no exception. Keeping the aforementioned principles and techniques in mind can help inform an exercise program and lifestyle that can be very effective in preventing pain to the neck and back.

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