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Muscle Imbalances Causing Chronic Pain

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According to a report from the CDC and Prevention, 50.2 million people live with chronic pain, saying they experience it most days or every day. (1) A Harvard research team analyzed this data and found that the most common types are back, hip, knee and foot pain. (2)

Under the nutrition blog we covered inflammation being a cause of chronic pain. In this blog, we’ll cover muscle imbalances contributing to chronic pain.

A muscle imbalance is when one muscle (or muscles) is overactive and inhibits or “turns off” another muscle(s). Muscles begin to overcompensate for others creating poor posture, pain, and limited mobility.

An overactive hip flexor complex is a muscle imbalance that causes back, knee, and foot pain. This group of muscles helps stabilize our pelvis and spine and are essential for lower body movement.

The hip flexor complex can easily become overused if not properly taken care of. A contributing factor to this, is prolonged hip flexion from sitting all day!

Tight hip flexors create a forward pull on the pelvis. Justin Price, creator of the BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist certification, said this can prevent the leg from travelling behind the body correctly (such as what is needed when walking and/or running). When this happens other areas of the body compensate such as overarching of the lower back. (3)

He also stated that common postural and movement imbalances such as flattening of the feet (i.e., overpronation) and/or knocked knees can rotate the ankle and leg inward. This disruption in the movement of the legs leads to further hip flexor dysfunction altering movement patterns and over time resulting in pain to the feet, ankles and knees. (3)

To help increase mobility, improve posture, and decrease pain in these areas you can massage and stretch the hip flexor complex. Our fitness library has a video showing you how to do this.

It’s important to work on the underactive muscles as well. For tight hip flexors, the core and glutes are the weak muscles that need strengthened.  

If you’d like to work on improving your back, knee, or foot pain, contact the Wellness Advocate, Whitney Ferguson at wferguson@ciu10.org.

References:

1. Zelaya, C.E., Dahlhamer, J.M., Lucas, J.W., and Connor, E.M. (2020, November). Retrieved from Products – Data Briefs – Number 390 – November 2020 (cdc.gov).

2. Yong, J.R., Mullins, P.M., Bhattacharyya, N. (2021, April 2). Prevalence of chronic pain among adults in the United States. Retrieved from Prevalence of chronic pain among adults in the United States : PAIN (lww.com).

3. Price, J. (2019, July 2). Tight Hip Flexors Can Cause Lower Back Pain, Knee Pain, and Foot Pain. Retrieved from https://www.netafit.org/2019/07/tight-hip-flexors-can-cause-lower-back-pain-knee-pain-and-foot-pain/.