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Strange Muscle Imbalance Impeding Progress

lemmethinkonit

lemmethinkonit

New Member
Oct 11, 2023
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Hey all,

First let me say that if this is entirely the wrong place to post this, my sincerest apologies - please tell me where I need to relocate this thread and I'll be glad to do so;

I can remember the day that I started thinking something felt "off" when I was walking. I had just moved home to Arkansas from Nashville TN where I'd experienced the most stressful and chaotic 9 months of my life. Something in my left leg felt like IT needed to "pop" but couldn't. It was late May of 2012. I went to numerous chiropractors, but there was no real relief from the vague feeling of "imbalance" and "weakness" on my left side. I eventually started noticing that my left side didn't quite have the muscular definition that my right side had.

I was eventually referred to a physical therapist that said that my ITB on my left side was tight and that it needed to be stretched. The PTs I worked with just gave me exercises to do and didn't really give me much personalized care. I had a hard time buying that my situation was ITBS because I never ran - ever. I've also learned since that "stretching" an ITB is a pointless pursuit. The rolling and exercises that the PTs gave me helped for a time, but only for a little while. As soon as I would stop doing the stretching and rolling, the symptoms would come back.

Fast forward through years of different attempts to identify the source of the problem via physical therapists, massage therapists, dry needling (only did this like twice and that was enough for me), acupuncture, chiropractic care, and counseling and I still haven't really been able to target why my left side is weaker in literally every dimension that my right side. It feels like, and looks like, my left abs won't engage and my left glute won't engage the way my right will. Literally everything on my right side feels fine. My left side feels fragile and weak.

The symptoms of whatever this condition is have waned in severity through different times in my life, but persisted all the same. In fall of 2021, when I was 30, I began barbell training with a personal trainer. I went from never having barbell squated or deadlifted to squating 330 & deadlifting 485 conventional for a 1RM within 1.5 years time. But my symptoms of imbalance still persist. When I lift heavy all of my work feels like it's being done by the right side of my body. My right lower back feels "worked" and I feel nothing in my left lower back. My left leg & knee feel really unstable and weak. My trainer just shrugs it off and says that every human isn't fully symmetrical and that I wouldn't be able to lift the weight I'm lifting if my muscles weren't firing properly. I feel like my lower right side of my back is doing ALL of the work when I'm squating and when I'm deadlifting. My trainer is a Starting Strength certified trainer, but they can't identify what is causing my imbalance. The imbalance seems to get worse when I'm mentally stressed making me think that it is Psychosomatic Disorder? Maybe? The symptoms seem to be gradually getting worse all the time. My left hip joint pops LOUDLY every morning when I start getting up and moving around.

When I bend over to grab the bar for a deadlift, some ligament in the back of my left knee "pops." It will also pop when I do RDLs. It sometimes pops when I'm doing squats. It makes me really nervous because my right side doesn't do that. As I'm typing this out, my pinky side of my left hand keeps going numb. I'm always "aware" of my left elbow, knee, and abs. My balance feels off and I am getting to where I dread training because I know it is just going to irritate my body and that my trainer isn't really going to be any help. My right side feels "heavier" than my left. I started therapy (counseling) when I started barbell training and my symptoms still persist. When I sit in a chair I feel like I slump to the right. I feel like if my left side were more in agreement / balance with my right side that pulling 500lbs+ and squating 400lbs+ would be no issue. I feel like I know that I am capable of getting much stronger and much more weight on the bar, but I don't know how to fix this imbalance and feel safe pursuing heavier weights.

I welcome and appreciate any questions that you may have about this and I apologize for any gaps I'm leaving in information in advance. Thank you for any help that you can send my way!
 
S

searay

VIP Member
Dec 20, 2017
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Have you considered using DB instead of BB for upper body workouts? Is your Dr an MD or Osteopath? I think, considering your medical issues are more structural than internal, you would be better off with an Osteopath. You can get Osteopathic massage therapy that your ins. should pay for. If that's not an option, have you considered massage therapy?
 
genetic freak

genetic freak

VIP Member
Dec 28, 2015
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My best guess would be cervical nerve damage, since you mentioned your hand also going numb, otherwise I would lean more towards never damage in the lumbar region or hips.

You also might want to find a new trainer, as that one doesn't seem very intelligent.
 
Tuffoldman

Tuffoldman

VIP Member
May 23, 2011
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Have you considered finding a functional movement specialist in your area?

Not a fitness trainer but someone that is actually FMS certified??

Overly tight muscles are putting an awkward strain on your joints and causing impingement of the nerves possibly??


My advice again stop worrying about how much weight you're lifting until you figure out what's going on in your body because every time you lift heavy and if your body is listing to one side or the other you're causing damage and long-term it's not going to get better by lifting heavier.



You mentioned that you can't have it band tightness because you're not a runner what does running have to do with you having tight IT bands? You mentioned that while you were foam rolling and stretching the pain subsided but as soon as you stop the pain came back just face value shows that the IT band is overly tight. Muscles that are overly tight can shorten and it can take a long time, not a week or two weeks or 3 weeks, to get back to where they need to be you could spend the next 6 to 12 months stretching every day to get the functionality back in tight muscles.


Understand where your current trainer is coming from saying that if you're only firing muscles on one half of your body you're not going to be squatting in the triple digits. Just because you're feeling sore on one side of your body doesn't mean the muscles are not firing off on the other side that is ridiculous.

Too many people feel if a muscle is sore it's been worked and if it's not sore it hasn't been worked and that is not necessarily the case. If you have tight muscles on one side of your body.... let's use piriformis which is a very common tight muscle in the glutes. Do squats with an overly tight piriformis on one side and you're going to be sore more on one side. Has nothing to do with the muscles firing off it has to do with how things are tied together and pulling joints and other muscles out of alignment.


Nerve impingement is not uncommon especially when tight muscles are involved and pulling joints out of whack.


It is literally impossible to diagnose what you've got going on online. First of all stop lifting heavy until you find out what's going on. Second of all finding a functional movement specialist that can do an assessment on movement patterns to find out what might be going on which I would put my money on muscle imbalance feeling is due being overly tight.
 
Thrawn

Thrawn

MuscleHead
Jun 12, 2023
913
477
My best guess would be cervical nerve damage, since you mentioned your hand also going numb, otherwise I would lean more towards never damage in the lumbar region or hips.

You also might want to find a new trainer, as that one doesn't seem very intelligent.
With numb pinky I agree with @genetic freak do you have insurance? If so get an MRI with contrast, they prob will order one with out first. Can get electrical nerve testing forgot official name but that will only tell you where MRI will do that. Did Chiropractors x-ray show anything.
 
Thrawn

Thrawn

MuscleHead
Jun 12, 2023
913
477
Yes that's it. Looks like it does nerve to muscle as well so may show something MRI does not, unsure though.
 
parttimer

parttimer

VIP Member
Oct 11, 2011
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My best guess would be cervical nerve damage, since you mentioned your hand also going numb, otherwise I would lean more towards never damage in the lumbar region or hips.

You also might want to find a new trainer, as that one doesn't seem very intelligent.
I ran into this with my left side. My arm hurt, my pinky and index finger would go numb. I had 3 discs out in my neck and over time the signal got weaker, making that side weaker, before it happened I could get 5 sets of 10 with 150lb db's, as my neck went out and got worse, I could barely do 45's and you could see a difference in that side of my body due to the nerves not firing right.
 
R

rawdeal

TID Board Of Directors
Nov 29, 2013
4,336
3,504
I ran into this with my left side. My arm hurt, my pinky and index finger would go numb. I had 3 discs out in my neck and over time the signal got weaker, making that side weaker, before it happened I could get 5 sets of 10 with 150lb db's, as my neck went out and got worse, I could barely do 45's and you could see a difference in that side of my body due to the nerves not firing right.
Thanks for that, parttimer, I may/may not be following in your footsteps. Last time I saw my PCP he ordered a Cervical Spine XR when I mentioned frequent "clicking" in my neck whenever I turned my head ... like when driving for instance. No pain, no loss of strength ... so far. PCP said it just looked like normal neck arthritis, but your post has given me some doubts ... lmk if you hear my footsteps right behind yours :confused:
 
genetic freak

genetic freak

VIP Member
Dec 28, 2015
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Nerve damage or dysfunction can wreck havoc on the body. Unfortunately, it is like the wiring in a vehicle. When you get a short, it can be damn hard to find out exactly where the problem is at.
 
myosaurus

myosaurus

TID Board Of Directors
Sep 21, 2010
934
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It can be coming from pelvis imbalance and whatever above it is compensating to maintain posture. Unilateral training for legs both quads and hams would be recommended. When doing leg ext or curls, you maybe noticing one side working harder. That will change tension/length relationship at rest and cause shift in joints like pelvis and ribcage, and scapula.
I'm generalizing here but also pointing out at possible root cause, I can be wrong but it's a possibility.
Hope you find solutions to it fast.
 
R

rawdeal

TID Board Of Directors
Nov 29, 2013
4,336
3,504
Good to see you again here, Myo, you make an interesting point.

I've always worried that unilateral training may cause pelvic (or shoulder?) imbalance rather than cure it ... but I still don't know if the chicken or the egg came first.

Where are Louie Simmons, or GK, when we really need them?
 
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