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Muscle Imbalance and Partner Dancing


Muscle balance is a constant struggle for today’s society.  Shoulder, back, hip and knee issues plague many of us in our daily lives, not to mention our active hobbies.

What is Muscle Balance?

Muscle balance is when normal amounts of opposing force and length between muscles keep the bones centered in the joint during motion.

For example:  When you flex your biceps, the biceps contract while the triceps extend.

What is Muscle Imbalance?

Muscle Imbalance occurs when tightness and/or weakness causes opposing muscles to  create different directions of tensions.  This can put undue stress on the joint, causing a cascade of symptoms.

What Causes Muscle Imbalance?

There are 2 main types of causes:

1 – Repetitive movements in one direction and sustained postures.

2 – Neuromuscular imbalance due to the predisposition of muscle groups to either be tight or weak.

Let’s focus on the first reason.

-An example of repetitive motions:
A tennis player that constantly swings a racket.  This is what causes “tennis elbow” or shoulder joint issues.

-An example of sustained posture:
For those that sit at a desk all day, the hip flexor complex tends to be tight, causing weak glutes, shoulders hunched over and head protruding forward.

Effects on Partner Dancing

Dancing is an active and physical hobby, and for some a lifestyle, but we don’t often think of it causing muscle imbalance.  Some may even think of it as helping balance other aspects of their lives, like those that sit in front of a computer all day.  This may be true, but partner dancing is still an imbalanced repetitive motion.  Think of how each dance is designed:  How the points of connection with your partner work, the mechanics behind those motions, what muscles constantly extent/catch/activate, which direction the joints are moving, which leg is favored for weight placement, etc.  For those that dance with frequency, this can cause imbalance.  Imbalances with opposing muscles and even imbalances with the left and right side of the body.

Should I Be Concerned?

This article is meant to bring awareness and not to scare you.  Those that use partner dancing as an occasional hobby will probably never have issues due to the lack of frequency.  Dancing is still a great physical activity that can enhance your life.  It can improve cardiovascular health as well as social skills.

What Can I Do?

If you already have symptoms, consult a professional (doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor), especially those that have experience with sports or dance injuries.

Preventative care is your best defense against these problems.  Often it can be as simple as improving the flexibility of the tight muscles (stretching/massage) and strengthening the weak muscles.  A quality fitness trainer can help improve this balance.   Yoga and Pilates are great and are a common choice for female dance professionals.  Gyms and fitness centers are also a great choice (caution: without proper exercise form or instruction, other problems may arise).

Bottom line:  Take care of yourself.  Many people approach life like they are invincible at a young age, but as time passes, the body starts to break down.  Body maintenance becomes vital for good health.  What you do now will carry with you throughout your life.    Don’t make the excuse that it takes too much time.  This is your body…it’s kind of important.  Make good choices!