When we think about one-sided muscle weakness, we tend to think of it in the short term. If you sprain your ankle, you expect your foot to be weak immediately following that injury. But what happens down the line if things aren’t addressed properly?

We often overlook muscle imbalances as a long term result of an “old” injury. Take stress fractures for example. With stress fractures, athletes wait for the bone to heal and then begin a return to run program. Many do work on strengthening, but often not in a way to effectively address poor running body mechanics that have developed over time. 

A stress fracture in the hip results in pain, which in turn causes altered running mechanics and muscular tightness. If these issues aren’t addressed, they can result in future injury and decreased performance. Gluteal muscle atrophy may result, knee pain can develop, and performance will surely be lost.

Well that sounds terrible! If you have an “old injury” or haven’t been running the same since “that time when…” you might want to take a good look at your body. Feel your muscles. The big four to compare left to right are: calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes. A simple test to do at home: stand on 1 leg on a pillow or another soft surface (or a BOSU at the gym if you’re feeling ambitious) and time yourself. If you noticed asymmetry—and especially if you have had some type of injury—it might be time to get your running mechanics evaluated by a professional.

Cathlin Fitzgerald, PT, DPT, CSCS, CAFS