Which Is Worse? Left Or Right?

No, this is not a political rant, and I promise to spare you any of those, no matter how stupid politicians act. It’s about the difference between left- and right-handed individuals, from a massage therapist’s point of view.

One thing I have noticed, amongst the myriad things I have noticed in the past couple of years studying the human body up close and personal, is that most people are right handed.

Okay, that isn’t really what I noticed in the past couple of years. What I did notice is that most people, and by most I mean 99.9% of my clients, have knots and trigger points and quite a lot of hypertonic muscles between their scapulae, their shoulder blades, because that’s where they store their stress, whether left or right handed.

You get stress in your neck moving your head, no matter what you do – even when asleep – and that stress tugs on the muscles between the shoulders.

You get stress doing whatever you do with your hands and arms all day – driving, typing, hammering nails, drawing mustaches on pictures of models in magazines, whatever it is you use your arms and hands for, and that stress all winds up in the middle of your back, between your shoulder blades, because your shoulder muscles move every time your arms and hands move.

And then also, because those big, fat erector muscles that run all the way from the base of your skull to the base of your spine pass right between your shoulder blades, you get all the pulling and the stress from below when you move your hips and legs.

This is why I usually spend a great deal of my time in any massage working between and around the shoulders. That’s where most of the body’s stress is, and where the client will feel the most relief when I squash knots, release trigger points, and unclench hypertonic muscles.

But to return to my main point, one might think that there would be more knots and kinks and trigger points and all that stuff on the right side of the spine in right handed people, because that’s where most of the right handed person’s activity is.

By now you have figured out that this is NOT the case, otherwise I wouldn’t have any startling revelation to reveal. No, fellow grasshoppers, most right handed people are significantly more jacked up (that’s a technical LMT term, by the way) on the left side, in the rhomboids, trapezius, often the teres minor, sometimes the deltoid, and even the erectors, often down as far as the sacrum.

Nearly everyone I work on has active trigger points along the medial edges of the scapula, where the rhomboids attach. Almost invariably these are more active and often more numerous on the left than the right, in right handed clients. The rhomboids themselves usually are stiffer and more hypertonic, and often even ischemic.

For a long time I explained this phenomenon to myself and sometimes to clients as some kind of compensation mechanism – the weaker left side trying so hard to keep up with the stronger right, that the muscles became overworked.

Now I have a better explanation, or at least an alternative one. I think it’s a matter of inactivity rather than overactivity. When a right handed person reaches for something he usually uses his right hand and arm rather than the left. Over time this preference for one motion over another makes the left shoulder area significantly less active than the right.

With fewer opportunities to stretch, the rhomboids especially become partially ischemic, that is, there is less blood flow, less oxygen and nutrients, and more tendency to become stiff, increasing the probability of active trigger points developing.

The reverse is not necessarily the case with lefties, because most left handed people have to be somewhat ambidextrous to get along in a right-handed world. Some even were encouraged, by which I mean forced in one case I know personally, during childhood to become right rather than left handed. The result is that most left handed clients I work on don’t have this issue. If they are jacked up, they are jacked up equally.

I have found that the same is true in those who exercise regularly and intensely. With a good exercise program, both sides of the body are worked more or less equally, so this phenomenon doesn’t occur as often.

So my suggestion to right-handed folks is to stretch more. Well, all right, my suggestion to everyone is to stretch more. Get both arms above your head, lean against a wall, hang from the monkey bars at the park, whatever you feel like, just to get the rhomboids on both sides tugged and stretched more often.

And take Epsom salt baths.

And come see me for a massage anyway.

Couldn’t hurt.

That is all.

Mark out.

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2 Responses

  1. That’s interesting, isn’t it? I agree that we should strive for symmetry and use both sides equally. As you said, exercise will help strengthen and stretch the non-dominant side.

  2. There’s so much we take for granted about our bodies, I think, until some part of it goes wrong. Speaking of, it’s time I was off to the gym. Thanks for your thoughts, Min! 🙂

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