A Balanced Body Is a Pain-Free Body

At least one hundred million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting longer than six months. That number goes much higher when we add the statistics for acute pain. Chronic and acute pain can range from mild to moderate to excruciating. Dealing with pain costs society over $600 billion dollars each and every year. This is a significant public health problem.

As a neuromuscular therapist, I have observed that the four most common complaints from my clients are back pain, neck pain, headaches, and knee pain. In fact, I will bet that many of you reading this have suffered with some of these conditions or know someone who has. Chronic and acute pain will likely affect most people at some time in their lives.

Interestingly, back in the 1950s when I was growing up, low-back pain was one of the most common reasons that compelled a person to seek medical help. Today, low-back pain is still one of the most common reasons a person will seek medical attention. How can it be that in a country with such an advanced medical system that low back pain is still so persistent?

The answer is that usually when a doctor or therapist treats low-back pain, they are treating symptoms, not the cause. Of course, treating the symptoms to achieve relief is well and good, but in the long term treating the cause of the low-back pain will yield longer-term relief.

A great deal of research presents evidence that the root cause of many neuromuscular pain patterns is due to biomechanical malalignments caused by muscle imbalances. Therapists often refer to this as the muscles being locked long or locked short.

When you visit your doctor, you could be diagnosed with any one of hundreds of conditions. In our Western model of medicine, standard treatment for conditions like sciatica, plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, low-back pain, most headaches, and herniated discs involves treating the symptoms, typically with a painkiller or an anti-inflammatory drug. Seldom does Western medicine treat the cause.

I am now going to reveal to you the “secret” I became aware of that finally relieved my headaches after the car accident. I use this knowledge almost daily to help people reduce or eliminate their neuro-muscular pain. The secret is correcting muscle imbalances. In my experience, these imbalances can account for 80 percent of the pain a person will experience in their lifetime! Correcting muscle imbalances will give you better posture, more energy, and reduce or eliminate many painful conditions.

Muscle imbalances are often the cause of many painful conditions you will experience in your life, including:

  • Tension-type headaches and migraines
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD)
  • Cervical muscle strain (neck pain)
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)
  • Epicondylitis, lateral or medial (tennis or golfer’s elbow)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Lumbar muscle strain (low back pain)
  • Piriformis syndrome (sciatica)
  • Medial meniscus injury (knee pain)
  • Plantar fasciitis (heel spur)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Disc abnormalities
  • Nerve compressions
  • Fascial restrictions
  • Poor posture
  • Knee and hip replacements
  • Reduced flow in the energetic body (prana)
  • . . . and many more painful conditions.

What is a muscle imbalance?

A muscle imbalance occurs when muscles become either too long or too short. Muscles that are too short or long will cause the muscular system to become painful and possibly even inflamed.

Optimal functioning of the musculoskeletal system requires that muscles be in balance in regard to strength and length. If muscles do not possess this balance, they become painful, and the joint where these imbalances occur will become compromised. This often manifests as pain in that joint and/or limited range of motion.

When muscles become too short, they will feel tight and will often become achy or painful. Now, pay close attention to this next statement. When muscles become too long, they also will feel tight and will often become achy or painful. At first this doesn’t seem to make much sense. Let’s take a closer look.

Imagine a rubber band. Imagine that you are now pulling two ends of the rubber band farther apart. This stretching of the rubber band is making it longer and tighter, is it not?

Let’s experience this in our bodies. A common muscle imbalance in our culture is that many people have their shoulders rounded forward. This is due to improperly sitting in a chair. Try this now. Round your shoulders forward by contracting your chest muscles. Touch the chest muscles and they will feel tight, as you would expect. Now touch the upper back muscles between your shoulder blades. You will notice they also feel tight. As a matter of fact, they feel much tighter than the short muscles in most people. Muscles that are too long and tight often feel substantially tighter than muscles that are too short and tight.

When muscles are out of balance, they are either too short and tight or too long and tight. This is the knowledge we need in order to bring the body back into balance. When muscles are trained to come back into balance, many painful conditions can be alleviated.

Find out about upcoming programs with Lee Albert at Kripalu.

Excerpted with permission from Yoga for Pain Relief: A New Approach to an Ancient Practice, © 2017 by Lee Albert, NMT, winner of the Independent Book Publishers Association's 2018 Ben Franklin Gold Award in the Health/Fitness category and Silver Award for Best Cover, Large Format.

Lee Albert, NMT, creator of Integrated Positional Therapy, is an author and a neuromuscular therapist and yoga instructor trained in orthopedic massage, positional therapy, and yoga therapy.

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