Is one of your shoulders higher than the other?
Do your shoulders feel tight and painful on one side?
Are you spending hours in the gym, training endlessly trying to fix it?
Put down the barbell for a second and read this. We’re going to talk about trap imbalances and what you can do about them.
What is a trap imbalance?
The term “trap imbalance” is a nonmedical term that can actually refer to two separate conditions:
- An imbalance between the left and right side of the trapezius muscles — If you search Reddit for this term, you’ll find a lot of posts from bodybuilders looking to even out their shoulders. While many athletes diagnose this problem visually (why is one of my shoulders bigger than the other?), it can point to bigger issues and cause pain or discomfort.
- An imbalance between the upper and lower trapezius muscles — Other athletes find that their upper trapezius muscles grow at a faster rate than their lower muscles, pulling on the latter and creating tension in the upper back. Like the other form of trap imbalance, this can also lead to pain and discomfort.
Any muscle imbalance can cause pain and increase the risk of injury, so it’s important to address this condition. Instead of trying to fix the problem yourself by working out harder — which may not fix the problem — we suggest consulting a professional physical therapist. They’ll help you diagnose the root cause of your muscle imbalance and work toward correcting it.
How physical therapy can help athletes with trap imbalances
Here are two reasons you may want to seek out physical therapy if you’re experiencing this issue:
- Injury prevention — The problem with working out when you have a muscle imbalance is that your weaker muscles can’t keep up with your stronger muscles. However, it’s easy to let your stronger muscles set the pace for your exercise without realizing that your weaker muscles are struggling to keep up. Ultimately, this can cause you to overextend your weaker muscles, leading to tears, pulls and other injuries. Your physical therapist will help you strengthen your weaker muscles so they are working in conjunction with the stronger ones instead of trying to keep up.
- Posture correction — Some cases of imbalanced traps stem from poor posture, either during exercise or in day-to-day activities. For instance, a left-right imbalance can develop if you spend long periods of time leaning on one side or the other. Your physical therapist will assess your posture and help you correct it to restore balance between your trapezius muscles.
What to do about a trap imbalance
If you’re an athlete and you’re worried about an imbalance in your trapezius muscles, find a physical therapist who specializes in sports injuries. They are likely to have experience diagnosing and treating this issue.
Contact us at Back in Motion Physical Therapy today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.