pain EXPLAINED – how our natural asymmetry DRIVES DYSFUNCTION
Surprise – Your body is not symmetrical. A lot of what goes on inside of you is quite asymmetrical, actually.
What it ultimately comes down to is that we favor our right sides and our asymmetrical nature puts us in this position.
This is completely normal and not a problem at all, but what matters is that this asymmetry can be exasperated by poor breathing, postural integrity, and lifestyle habits like sitting too long.
For one, our organs are not symmetrical. Our right lung is bigger than our left, and our diaphragm, a main muscle of inhalation, is larger on the right.
Our right lung fills our left chest wall, and vice versa. This is important because the body is primarily concerned with survival. In order to survive, our body naturally orients to bringing air in the easiest and most energy-efficient way possible.
Therefore, if it’s easier for us to fill up our left chest wall, our body will orient in a position that’s most efficient, which is this:
The left side is opened up via pelvic orientation to the right and our trunks to the left so we can really breathe into our left chest.
Your body could not care less in what manner it takes in air. It will always take the path of least resistance.
This causes our right ab wall and adductors (among other muscles) to become overactive, while those muscles on the left side become long and weak.
In addition, our brains are not symmetrical (duh), but it runs deeper than most people think. Research suggests that the left hemisphere, which controls the right side of the body, is dominant in motor planning regardless of hand dominance.
The net effect is a bias towards the right side, which usually presents as a tendency to shift our weight onto our right leg when standing and our right ischial tuberosity (“sit-bone”) when sitting.
If you’re sitting right now, try to feel your left and right sit bones. I bet you feel your right a lot more than your left.
If you still don’t believe me, stand up, put your right foot behind your left, and then put as much weight on your right heel as you can. Then, keep your pelvis turned to the right and try to rotate your trunk to the left just like the above picture. Now, reverse it and try the same thing with your left foot back.
Look at yourself in the mirror in a relaxed, but normal posture for you. Is your right shoulder a bit lower than your left? Probably.
Now, if we begin to fall too much into this pattern of asymmetry, we will end up favoring our right sides too much. This means that we can’t properly shift between hips when walking or during other activities.
If you can’t accomplish the basic task of shifting into the left and right in an alternating fashion, you’re setting yourself up to compensate throughout your body.
For example, a pelvis that is consistently too tilted forward will cause a lengthening of the abs and hamstring muscles, causing your back extensors on that left side to be overactive and your Sacro-Iliac joint can get achey, or Sciatica can develop.
What can I do?
If you’re not in pain, you don’t have to do anything. However, if I have a client that’s in pain, I’ll go after their breathing first.
The respiratory system is what allows your brain to allow changes to postural alignment. See this article for more on breathing (it’s a breathing article disguised as a neck pain article).
Basically, if you cannot breathe through a position your body is unfamiliar with, it won’t allow changes as that new position is sensed as a threat to the body’s assumed posture which allows you to survive.
Following that, I am going to facilitate activation of the left adductor, obliques, and gluteus medius muscles to allow you to shift into their left hip more, then turn on the lower fibers of their right glute max to facilitate an ability to push you off their right leg and onto their left.
Facilitation of the correct muscles with proper breathing is essentially telling your body “Hey, I can survive here, and this feels better, so let’s hang out here for a bit”.
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