Being right side dominant is not anything to worry about in and of itself. Experts estimate that a possible 90 percent of the world’s population is right-handed and right side dominant, after all, so if simply favoring your right side was harmful to your health, a great number of people would be suffering. However, issues with being right side dominant can (and often do) arise when you begin to favor your right side excessively.
Washington, DC-based physical therapist Daniel Baumstark has lent his expert opinion to this issue. In his many years of practicing physical therapy, he claims that he has seen many right-sided patients who have developed chronic weakness in the left sides of their bodies. The weakness is most commonly observed in the left leg and hip and is the result of an under-use of the left side of the body.
When muscles are under-used and subsequently become weak, the result is a situation in which joints and other muscles are forced to work harder to keep the body in balance. This eventually results in overuse of the favored muscles, which can cause a number of problems. Lower back pain, sciatica (pain, weakness, or numbness in the leg caused by injury to the sciatic nerve), and hip bursitis (painful inflammation of the hip) are all quite common among individuals who place an overemphasis on the right side of their bodies.
It’s not difficult to spot individuals who favor their right sides. In most cases, they will be quite obvious in the way that they shift their body weight onto their dominant and stronger right side. When they stand, they often shift their weight onto their right hip. When they are seated, many have the tendency to cross their left leg over their right- again, shifting their weight onto their stronger side. While this may seem harmless, over time, it can actually result in overuse of the right side of the body.
So why doesn’t this problem affect left-handed and left side dominant people as much as right-handed and right side dominant people? Well, in some cases, it certainly does, but it’s true that right side dominant individuals are more common culprits of overusing their dominant sides. This is probably due in large part to the fact that many aspects of our society are geared towards right-handed and right side dominant people (for the simple and obvious reason that most people fall into this category).
As a result of living in a society that’s geared towards righties, left side dominant individuals must learn to use the right side of their bodies as adeptly as their left sides. Think about it: Everything from zippers to bicycle gears are tailored to be convenient for righties, so lefties have to work harder and adapt in order to use most modern conveniences. They have to learn how to master subtle movements in their right legs, for example, in order to drive a car.
Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take as a right side dominant person to ensure that your left side does not go under-used, thereby putting you at risk for injury. Physical therapists recommend the following examples:
Pay attention to your posture at all times.
When you are sitting, try to avoid shifting your weight to your right side by crossing your legs. When you are standing up, try to consciously equalize your body weight between both legs, engaging the muscles on both sides. This helps to reduce the pressure you are placing on just your right side.
Try counting your left-sided steps as you walk and as you ascend stairs.
This is not a direct strengthening exercise, but as you count these steps, you are training yourself to pay more attention to the left side of your body. Over time, this will help you to strengthen your body’s neural connection to your left side.
Perform exercises that force your left side to work.
For example, try balancing on your weaker leg with your shoes off. If you’re like most right side dominant people, you will likely find that balancing on this side is much harder than balancing on your right leg. Over time, however, balancing on your left side will become just as easy. Once you’ve strengthened your left side enough to balance easily on flat ground, try balancing on your left side while standing on a foam pad or cushion. These exercises may sound easy, but even simple strength training exercises like these can have a significant positive impact on your body’s symmetry (and therefore its ability to combat injuries due to over/ under-use).
Although simply being a rightie is not a hazard to your health, the associated risks (favoring your right side to the point of weakening your left) could be. By trying the physical-therapist-recommended tips outlined above, however, you can help to reduce your risk of long term pain and injury.
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