The importance of musculoskeletal balance

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Everything in the world works most effectively when in a state of balance. This is true in interpersonal relationships, in the environment-human relationship, in graphic design, building structure and almost anything that you can imagine. Within our own bodies, everything must also be in balance, or homeostasis. It’s important for our health that our blood sugar remains at an appropriate level, that our mental state (and neuro-transmitter mix) is balanced, that our hormones remain at appropriate levels, etc. In reality our bodies oscillate around this position of homeostatic balance or equilibrium as they react to external stimuli, and adjust to them. But our body always tries to return to equilibrium. This point of equilibrium is the state where the systems of our body work most effectively.

Muscular efficiency and musculo-skeletal balance

Musculo-skeletal balance is also very important for our long-term health. The anatomical position which is the standard view of human structure seen in textbooks shows the human body in a perfect state of muscular-skeletal balance. At every joint in this position, the agonist-antagonist relationship of the muscles which support the joint are balanced. The joint is said to be in a neutral position. In this position our muscles are at their maximum efficiency. A muscle is able to generate it’s maximum force when the muscle is between 80 – 120% of it’s natural (neutral) resting length (Marieb, 2004). This is because in this position the myosin heads of the thick filament have easy access to the thin filament, and have room to contract.

When one side of this agonist-antagonist relationship becomes shortened, the opposing muscle becomes overstretched. The shortened muscle is restricted because it has a limited range of contraction. It is weakened as a result. The overstretched muscle however becomes progressively more weakened with overstretching.

The overstretched, weakened muscle becomes predisposed to muscular strain, and the shortened or contracted muscle becomes more likely to develop trigger points (which reinforce the distortion).

The imbalance also leads to increased stresses on the joints which the muscles are supposed to be supporting. Also, because bones are continually reforming in response to the stresses which are placed on them from compressive forces & the pull of muscular contraction, it is likely that long-term postural misalignment could contribute to joint degeneration.