Overuse on one side of the body can create muscular imbalance and pain.
The most common muscle pain complaint people contact me about is hip pain – specifically right sided hip pain often accompanied by tightness in the ribs and waist on the same side. There is invariably accompanying same-side shoulder pain, usually on the top of the shoulder and into the neck. To top it off, 100% of these people sit at a computer nearly all day.
Many of these people have also experienced an accident or injury that has caused them to “cringe” and contract in an involuntary brain reflex called the Trauma Reflex. The trauma reflex involuntarily contracts one side of the waist and trunk rotators, which results in a slight side bending and twisting of the waist muscles on one side of the body. This occurs due to the need to compensate for an injury or to avoid pain on one side of the body.
Try this: Visualize sitting at your computer. Do you lean into your screen to see by thrusting your face forward? Do you reach for your mouse by rounding the shoulder forward and collapsing slightly in your ribcage? Do this do you sense a twinge of pressure or pain into your hip and up into your shoulder and neck when you do these movements?
Now look in the mirror. Does your posture like either of these photos?:
The photos above show a specific pattern of overuse on the computer. Look at the photo on the left and notice how the shoulder on the right side sits lower than the left shoulder. Look at the wrinkles in the woman’s shirt right under her armpit and shoulder blade which indicates tight shoulder and waist muscles that pull the shoulder down.
Look at the photo on the right. Notice the same effect, only this time from the front. The shoulder on the left side (the client’s right side) is pulling noticeably downward, causing the ribs to contract. Again, the telltale wrinkles in the shirt just under the armpit let you know that there are muscles tightening unconsciously all the time, while my client is standing “at ease.”
If you are collapsed and contracted in the center of the body, your hip joint will also be tight.
Some studies show that between 70-90% of people are right handed. This means that most people working on computers also use their mouse with their right hand – reaching, holding the right shoulder still, and slumping slightly into one hip as they type. No wonder so many computer users also complain of shoulder pain!
But how does collapsing/slumping on one side of the body create hip pain and shoulder pain?
The graphic on the right will help you understand: this shows the external oblique muscles (the “waist muscles”) that connect your ribs to your pelvis. The internal oblique muscles attach down into iliac crest of the pelvis. Both muscles help to twist the body and flex it laterally. They act like an accordion to bend the body to the side and enable the torso to turn. They are instrumental in moving the hips up and down and stabilizing the torso side-to-side.
If you habitually contract this muscle group, both the origin and the insertion of the muscles will become tight… all the way up into the ribs, shoulders, and neck, and down into the hip. The muscles will learn to stay tightly contracted and no longer able to fully contract, nor relax (Sensory Motor Amnesia) and pain will develop. The key is to improve awareness of your posture and movement habits, then consciously restore the muscles to their original length and function. Your pain will begin to diminish, your balance will improve, and your ability to move both of your hips and shoulder equally will return.
If you work at a computer and experience hip pain, shoulder pain or low back pain, you can choose to live without it. There are specific Hanna Somatic Exercises that can help you reverse this problem.
Products that can help you reverse your pain on your own:
You can also contact Martha for an online Skype session or one-on-one clinical session.