Movement Asymmetry: Are you overpatterned?

movement asymmetry

Did you know the body is actually very asymmetrical in its structure? This is due to the organs which are oriented in a very calculated way and separated from the right and left sides of the body. We have our liver and gallbladder on the right, and our pancreas, spleen, stomach, and most of our heart on the left. We have different functions of the hemispheres in our brain, too. So, there’s so much asymmetry in our body, and it’s really powerful.

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Asymmetry in athletes

However, asymmetry can start to become a bad thing when it’s associated with movement. In our high-level athletes, especially rotational athletes, like golfers and tennis players, they can start to become over patterned in a certain direction due to constantly swinging in the same plane over and over again. We ideally want the movement to be fairly symmetrical, with the exception of our higher-level athletes that do have some type of rotational sport or a sport that they have become over patterned so that they can maintain a high level of performance. We don’t necessarily want to take all of that away from them, we want to just try to keep them as healthy and functional as possible.

In the rest of the population, we know that asymmetry is one of the biggest predictors of non-contact injuries, along with the previous injuries, so it is important that we address asymmetry in movement.

Asymmetry and Pain

Now let’s talk about pain. Many times I have people that come in with right-sided low back pain or left-sided neck pain, for example. What I find is that they have become over patterned in a certain direction. For example, if someone is sitting at their workstation all day and they have a computer screen in front of them as well as to the right of them, a lot of their day will be them looking to the right. Over time, this will start to likely cause them pain on the right side of their body since they have become over patterned in that direction. This will happen to a lot of people especially on the side you are dominant on because you have your mouse on that side, the phone on that side, always writing on that side, etc.

Now let’s take an example of if you cross my leg in the same direction every time you sit down. If you do that every day it will create some kind of over patterning of the pelvis in this direction, which over time can contribute to pain and even injury.

So, I can give all of the appropriate rehabilitation exercises and manual exercises, but if someone doesn’t correct the patterning that they’re doing all day long, it will not have the same beneficial effect.

What can you do about it?

My recommendation to you is to take a day and truly assess your patterns. That means observing how you sit at work, where the computer screen is positioned, to the right or left?  Are you turning your body to the left, which also creates the right rotation in the neck, for example? Also, how do you drive in the car; is your right arm up or your left arm up? Do you always lean to the same side?

Take inventory of what happens with your movement patterns during your day so you can really begin to identify these asymmetrical patterns that you could be creating.


It’s okay to turn to the right and to the left and all around for that matter. You should turn in all planes that have lots of variability of movement! It’s when you favor one direction for a prolonged period of time, that is what your body does not prefer. The human body craves movement; it thrives on it. That’s how we can really achieve optimal wellness and longevity.

Just remember that the more variability and the more changes in your movement throughout the day the better. Your challenge…. Go out today and identify these patterns that you might be accustomed to.  And change them, of course!

If you are not sure where to start, please reach out to schedule a physical therapy or movement coaching evaluation.

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