Muscle Imbalance

Got Aches and Pains?

How To Feel Younger As You Get Older

Mid life is often the time when your aches and pains start catching up with you. And it’s often the time when comments or thoughts like “I’m getting old” become more frequent.

It’s a conclusion many people come to. But is it accurate?

Consider This

1. Many people have aches or pains on only one side of their body.

Assuming you do too, how can that be due to your age?

2. If ‘getting old’ is the cause of aches and pains, why are so many younger people in pain?

Conversely, why aren’t all ‘older’ people in pain?

Take knee pain for example. Both knees are the same age right?

”What a STOOPID question!”

Yet quite often, people experience knee pain in only one knee. If age was the cause, you would expect both knees to have pain, would you not?

Case In Point

Caused By Her Age?

The youngest client I’ve ever had was 4½ years old. Her mother brought her to me because she had knee pain.

We created a fun mini program of exercises for her to do every day.

After a week or so of doing her mini program, she had no more pain.

In addition to being pain free, she had also naturally stopped sitting in the bad position she had always gravitated towards (the reverse tailor position).

"What Can You Expect?"

At the other end of the age spectrum, the oldest client I’ve worked with was an 84 year old lady. Interestingly, she also came to me because of knee pain.

I asked her at the beginning of the session why she thought she was getting problems with her knee. She responded, “Well what can you expect at my age?”

So I asked a simple question: “How old is your left knee?” The expression on her face changed instantly.

This was a highly sought after psychotherapist who was still teaching and practicing at 84 years of age. She’d never considered the pain to be anything else other than a symptom of ‘getting old’.

So if it’s not your age, what is it?

Well, there can be several factors that contribute to the condition, but one overriding factor is a muscle imbalance.

Going Off Track

Muscle Imbalances & Compensation

You are designed to be balanced. Or to be precise, your body is designed to be balanced.

That balance should occur from left to right, and from front to back.

It goes deeper than that, but to keep it simple for now, let’s work with that: balanced from left to right and balanced from front to back.

When you’re not balanced, your body has to compensate.

Compensation starts happening when one area of your body is no longer able to properly do the job it’s supposed to do. But that job still needs to get done.

An Everyday Example

What kind of ‘job’ are we talking about? There are many, but let’s just take an every day example that we all do: Walking.

When you walk, a lot is happening in your body. In simple terms, one legs swings forward, which puts the hip on that side in ’flexion’. That leg is also momentarily off the ground.

While that leg is off the ground and swinging forward, the opposite leg is on the ground — bearing the full weight of your body — and the hip on that side is in ’extension’ (going behind your body).

The image below shows the gait cycle your legs and hips go through when you’re walking or running.

Normal Gait Cycle

Gait cycle — hip flexion and hip extension

Flexion & Extension. Bend & Straighten

When you lift your leg up — so that your thigh moves closer to your upper body — that is hip flexion (indicated by the red lines in the image above).

Conversely, when your leg goes behind your body, that is hip extension (indicated by the blue lines in the image above).

This all happens very quickly.

So let’s assume that the ‘job’ that needs to get done is the ’hip extension’ part of the action. The part of the movement where your leg is extended behind you.

If the muscles responsible for extending your hip (your hip extensors, funnily enough) aren’t properly ‘engaged’ or they don’t ”fire in the correct sequence”, something has to give.

You still need to generate some kind of extension in order to propel your body forward.

If the muscles responsible for extending your hip aren’t performing their role optimally (or at all), another part of your body will take over in an attempt to get the job done.

Except it will perform the job less efficiently than your hip extensors would if they were switched on and firing properly.

Your body knows the job needs to get done, so outside of your conscious awareness, it diverts resources from one body part to another.

This is what is known as compensation.

So now you’ve got one area of your body that’s underperforming and another area that’s juggling two roles at the same time — its own role plus the role of the underperforming hip extensors (in this example).

All this compensating and juggling two roles at the same time sounds a lot like being a mom, does it not?!

Compensation is okay for a small amount of time, but it’s not sustainable. In order to get your body back on track, the core issue needs to be addressed.

All too often, though, these 'minor adjustments' in compensation patterns aren’t addressed or treated.

So the part of your body that took over the role of another part — while still performing its own duties — gets fatigued over time.

Now you’ve got the first part that stopped functioning properly and a second part that’s beginning to fail due to overwork and exhaustion.

So what does your body do?

Well, you can think of your body much like an obedient dog that loves his owner unconditionally. That dog will do whatever it takes to keep his master happy.

It’s the same with your body.

Your body doesn’t question what’s “right or wrong, because your body doesn’t view “right and wrong” the same way that you do. It’s just knows it has to keep you moving.

It takes what it’s got and works with it, doing the best it can at every given moment.

So now the second body part is fatiguing from the overwork, your body will find a way to compensate again.

Now what have you got?

One body part that stopped functioning properly, which caused a second body part to step in and take over.

That was fine for a while, but then that second body part became exhausted and was no longer able to perform the second role.

Not only that, but it can no longer perform its own role properly either.

So now we’ve got two body parts that aren’t performing very well.

This is where body part #3 steps in to pick up the slack.

You can probably see where this is going. . .

“You’re Just Getting Old...”

And this is what 95% of people call “getting old”. Maybe you’ve called it that too.

These small adjustments in compensation patterns and decreased performance happen gradually over a long period of time.

They happen so slowly and imperceptibly that they go unnoticed. That is, until one more compensation incidence occurs.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, if you will.

'Dysfunction' and 'Compensation'

The two key words in all of this.

Dysfunction the body part that stopped functioning properly.

Compensation when another body part stepped in to help out or take over entirely.

A Closer Look At Your 'Design'

At the top of the article, we talked about how you are ‘designed’ to be balanced — from left to right and from front to back.

Just like all animals, your body has a blueprint design. That’s how it knew to grow you into a human and not a zebra or a giraffe or a cat or a dog.

When we live according to our design, we can generally expect things to go well. When we don’t live according to our design, it can create a whole host of problems.

Let’s take a look at this so-called blueprint design. We’ll start with the front of your body:

Correct postural alignment, front view

The main areas of interest on the image are what are know as your load bearing joints.

That’s your:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Shoulders

Four pairs of joints, giving you 8 individual joints in total.

They’re called ’load bearing’ because that’s precisely what they do:

They bear your weight in an upright position against the force of gravity.

Whether you’re moving or whether you're still, it’s your joints that bear your weight.

When your bones are in their optimal position, your joints function optimally because right angles are formed.

Right angles are a key component in creating strength and durability in your body.

This in turn provides your body with some of the key fundamental ingredients for greater well being.

The Interplay of Parts

While we’ve talked about joints and how their position affects your overall well being, joints by themselves are only part of the equation.

For a joint to exist, it has to be formed of at least two separate structures. In the case of your body, that’s your bones.

In the case of a wall shelf, it’s the shelf itself plus the brackets that support it.

Your bones create your joints.

So the problem is with my bones then?

That’s a common conclusion for people to draw, but it’s not the case. After considering the role of bones, we need to move to the next link in the chain.

That link is your muscles. It’s your muscles that attach to your bones to produce movement. Without your muscles, your bones wouldn’t be going very far by themselves.

Muscles Move Bones

In order for your joints to be in a less-than-optimal position, your bones must have deviated from their ‘neutral’ position.

And if your bones have deviated from their neutral position, it can only be because your muscles have put them there (unless there’s been significant trauma to the area).

Now, the thing with muscles — and this is where the whole ‘balance thing’ comes into play — is this:

They are all designed to work together as a unit.

Your Muscles Are Like An Orchestra

Each individual instrument (each muscle) has a particular sound.

As pleasant as that individual instrument may sound when played on its own, it’s only when it’s a part of a much greater whole that it’s true beauty and magic begin to shine.

A lot of time is spent in gyms on special pieces of equipment that aim to isolate individual muscles. The problem with that is quite simple:

None of your muscles work in isolation by themselves. Put another way: Your Body Works As A Unit.

Your muscles work as a highly tuned and highly refined co-ordinated unit. At least, they should work as a co-ordinated unit.

Quite often they don’t. That’s because of the dysfunction and compensation patterns we’ve been talking about.

You see, where a machine at the gym aims to isolate one individual muscle (or one small group of muscles), that’s not how your body works.

Your body works in patterns — movement patterns, to be more precise.

The Movement Patterns of Life

A movement pattern is quite simply ’something you do’.

Sounds a bit vague, right? Let’s look at a few examples.

We’ll start with one example we’ve already talked about as it’s one of the most common movement patterns that most people encounter every day:

The Movement Pattern of Walking

All things being well and and equal, when you walk, your are using hundreds of muscles.

You’re using the muscles of:

  • Your feet
  • Your lower legs
  • Your upper legs
  • Your hips
  • Your torso
  • Your back
  • Your shoulders
  • Your arms

That pretty much covers your whole body, right? (We won’t get into naming each muscle and what it’s doing in all of this!)

Of course, not everyone can walk, so the above example applies to most people, but not all.

So what about a movement pattern that everyone can relate to? That’s simple. This movement pattern applies to everyone and it’s the one that is continuously ongoing, 24 hours a day.


Breathing is a constant process, until it’s not.

You’ve no doubt heard the stats:

  • You can live for weeks without food
  • A few days without water
  • But only a few minutes without air

And what brings air into your body? The movement pattern of breathing.

There are many muscles involved in breathing, all working as a co-ordinated unit. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

When we get off balance — due to dysfunction and compensation — breathing often becomes compromised.

Taking A Full Breath

As was just mentioned, there are many muscles involved in breathing. But there’s one muscle that’s ‘the daddy’ when it comes to breathing, which is called your diaphragm (die-a-fram).

Ever heard people talking about 'belly breathing' or 'diaphragmatic breathing' or 'abdominal breathing'?

The diaphragm is the muscle responsible for that.

But guess what? The diaphragm has become dysfunctional in many people.

As a result, other muscles have taken over in a compensatory role and are now taking care of breathing in a primary role instead of an assisting role.

When this happens, breathing often becomes quite shallow and takes place high up in the chest area.

Your breath should be deep into your belly,
filling your lungs from the bottom up.

Think of it like a plunger, sucking the air in and directing it deep into your lungs.

When you breathe fully and properly, it can have a dramatic effect on your overall well being.

What happens for most people instead, though, is that breathing has become dysfunctional. What should be happening isn’t happening. So more compensation takes place.

Compensation begets compensation.

Instead of the diaphragm functioning in its primary role, it becomes disengaged to a greater or lesser degree. As a result, the upper chest and neck muscles take over the main role of breathing.

This isn’t what those muscles are supposed to do, though. So they become fatigued and perform less efficiently over time.

And once again, this is what is commonly — but erroneously — referred to as ”getting old”.

If you have aches and pains or you simply feel you’re off balance, then you have most likely deviated from your design.

The way to remedy the situation is to get you back on track and get you heading back in the other direction. Back to your natural design.

So let’s go back and look at your blueprint design again. This time we’ll look at the side view.

Your Blueprint Design From The Side

Correct postural alignment, front view

The principle of the side view is the same as it is for the front view.

The main focus is the load bearing joints and their position relative to one another.

As you can see in the image below, in an ideal world, your ankle, knee, hip and shoulder should all be aligned vertically with one another.

Moreover, the point just in front of your ear should also be on the same line.

When all of the joints are aligned in the side view, it’s a good indication that the muscles at the front and the back of your body and in pretty good balance with one another.

Balance between the front and the back of your body is called Dynamic Tension.

The Role of Your Spine

Your spine should be the shape of an elongated S.

There should be an inward curve at the lower end, called the lumbar spine.

Then there should be a gentle outward curve in the middle/top part of your back, called your thoracic spine.

And finally there should be another inward curve at the top of your spine where it meets your head, called the cervical spine.

Most of us have lost this natural elongated curve. What is more common to see nowadays is for the inward curve in the lower back to almost non existent and instead being quite flat.

In response to that, the slight outward curve of the upper back (the thoracic spine) becomes excessively curved, which is known as thoracic flexion.

As the upper back becomes excessively curved, we often see a displacement of the shoulders, whereby they begin round forward. We can usually expect to see the head dropping forward so the ear is now quite far forward of the line we saw a moment ago in the image above.

And what happens to your breathing when your upper back is rounded like this? It becomes dysfunctional.

Deep belly breathing happens rarely, if at all, and instead your neck and chest muscles take over in a compensatory role. Now your breathing is somewhat shallow and low energy, headaches and neck pain are often the result.

Is It Too Late To Change?

It's never too late :-)

One of the beautiful things about the human body is how forgiving and adaptable it is.

All of these dysfunctions, compensations and muscle imbalances happen very slowly and gradually over a period of time.

When they finally catch up with us — i.e. when we notice the aches, pains and other symptoms — we often label it as ‘getting old’.

But we now know that getting old is a choice, right?!

It’s not your age, it’s your muscle imbalances.

And that means as long as you have life in you, you can start the process of correcting your muscle imbalances.

Remind Your Muscles of Their Function

The process of correcting your muscle imbalances isn’t particularly difficult.

It does require some commitment and effort, but not the frenetic kind of effort you often see at the gym.

On the contrary, where the gym is often about ‘push, push, push’, correcting your imbalances is more about ’reminding your muscles’ of what they are supposed to do.

The focus is on 'working from the inside out'.

Rather than building muscle mass on the surface muscles — the muscles that look good when you stand in front of the mirror — most of these exercises are about working the deep, postural muscles.

The deep postural muscles are the ones that actually hold you in place. Those muscles are designed more for endurance as opposed to explosive, short-lived movements.

Find Out Where You Are On The Alignment & Balance Spectrum

I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the past 11 years. Regardless of the person and whatever problem they have, the process always begins the same:

With An Assessment.

You can only plot where you want to get to by knowing where you already are.

  • An assessment of your alignment and function lets you know where you currently are.
  • When you know that, it makes the job of plotting where you want to go a whole lot easier.
  • And that means you spend your time focussing on the key points that really matter and that will make a true difference in your life.

I’ve created a freesimple guide that will take you, step-by-step, through the process of doing a basic assessment on yourself (or for friends and family).

You’ll learn to spot the ‘elusive obvious’ — the things that have been staring you in the face the whole time but no one ever showed you how to see them.

This guide will show you how to find them.

Click the button below to get instant access to the free guide:
Discover Your Muscle Imbalances

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