Asymmetry In Our Bodies

Asymmetry SandalThis is a photo of a pair of minimalist/barefoot sandals that one of our coaches has been wearing for years. It has been used mostly for running and walking but also for other natural human movements like jumping and crawling. You can notice the difference in wear and tear, with the left side being more serious. The left sandal is significantly more worn in all areas; starting from the toe area (top), ball (middle), and heel (bottom). The reason is that the left feet grinds much more on the sandal because of asymmetry in the body. Other than being more inefficient (energy lost through friction), it also means the gait is different on each side.

Almost impossible to attain perfect symmetry.

We all have a master hand, master eye, master leg, etc. It is only for cases where the asymmetries are more serious that can lead to injuries. More pronounced asymmetries are sometimes caused by overusing one side of the body while neglecting the other. Common activities that cause this include racquet games, football, golf, baseball, breathing only on one side while swimming. Often, the asymmetry leads you to overcompensate on one side of the body, and the confusing thing is that it can be on either side. For example:

“Sometimes it’s a runner’s poor right hip stability that allows their knee to rotate excessively, and that drives their chronic right knee pain. But other times, their poor right hip stability may introduce an imbalance that actually winds up in a limp and thus stressing the other leg, causing symptoms in the left side.” – Jay Dicharry (Physical Therapist)

What can you do to prevent excessive asymmetry in your body?

While you can always spend more time training your weaker side, it is always hard to know if you are targeting the right area, or whether it’s a strength or flexibility issue. The best way would be to do contralateral movements. Contralateral movements require different sides of your body to work together. For example, crawling (eg hand-foot crawl, inverted crawl, push-pull crawl) requires your left arm to work with your right leg, and vice versa. Even better, add a balancing element to it, like the balancing hand-foot crawl. Other contralateral movements include walking and running.

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