Written by: Jason McKinley, CMT

Remember how you felt that time you injured your elbow playing baseball?  Perhaps after running once you noticed a pain in your knee that affected how you walked afterward?  Or maybe that day, while doing bicep curls, you decided to add more reps to the normal routine.  When you realized your biceps weren’t really doing the work, how did your low back feel?  Even if you haven’t experienced any problems like these, there has been a time when you have been afflicted with muscle compensation.  Don’t worry, it’s not some virus you picked up on that trip to Africa, and it’s not contagious.

Any time a certain muscle or group of muscles may be too weak to function properly, other muscles in the body will take over for that inhibited muscle to try and bring the body back into balance.  For instance, as you do those 3 extra reps of bicep curls, your legs may bend and your back may arch since the biceps are becoming too weak to finish the set properly.  Receptors in the biceps send a signal to the brain basically asking for a little help from another area of the body because the weight has become a little too much all of a sudden.  Not only is compensation affecting the musculature, but it can also be putting unwanted stress and tension on other joints, ligaments, and tendons.  Now compensation is not always negative because it can also help prevent injured areas from becoming affected even more.  Let’s weight out some of the pros and cons of muscle compensation.

Pros

– Helps protect and guard injured or weak muscles

– Prevents muscles from further injury

– Helps bring the body back into balance

Cons

Puts undue stress and tension on joints, ligaments, tendon etc…

– Inhibits muscle growth of a weak muscle

– Can lead to atrophy of a muscle from lack of use

– Causes postural deviations that are difficult to change

So the next time you are throwing the ball around and you may be feeling a little elbow pain, be careful when you notice you stop bending your arm because it hurts.  Either stop and consult your friendly Rebound P.T, Acupuncturist, or Massage Therapist, or just switch to your other arm.  You may look ridiculous and there may be some laughter and finger pointing, but your body will thank you for it in the long run!

Muscle Compensation

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