If you’re like 90% of the population, you’re right-hand dominant. Unlike “lefties,” the majority of us don’t have to give a second thought when we perform simple tasks such as zipping a coat, taking a picture, using scissors, or switching the gears of a bicycle. Since the equipment used for those activities has been designed for right-handed use, left-handed people typically learn to be somewhat ambidextrous, out of necessity. Even automobiles are designed for those favoring their right sides.
Even many clichés rely on the idea that most people rely heavily on their right sides. Phrases such as “my right-hand man” and “I’d sooner lose my right arm” point out the dependence most right-handed people have on their dominant side. Aside from the possibility of breaking one’s right arm or hand, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for a right-handed person to develop ambidexterity.
However, physical therapists see the problems that can occur in excessively right-sided patients. Consistent under-use of the left buttocks and hip stabilizing muscles can cause chronic weakness of the left side. In turn, weakness of the left leg and hip, in particular, can lead to hip bursitis, lower back pain, or sciatica.
Often, the posture of those who are excessively right-sided will demonstrate their propensities. If you’re observant, you’ll notice that many right-handed individuals have the tendency to shift their weight to their right hips, when standing still. The same people will often cross their left legs over their right legs, while sitting, transferring the weight, again, to their stronger side.
If you’re the kind of “righty” that tends to overuse your right side, you need to remember that you’re also under-using your left side. As you perform everyday tasks and as you exercise, you need to remember to utilize your left side regularly. The good news is that there are simple steps that you can take in order to avoid developing the problems associated with left-sided weakness.
1. Purposely correct your posture.
When you’re standing, try to put an equal amount of weight on each of your legs. When you’re sitting, try to avoid crossing your legs, or alternate the leg you put on top. Over time, these practices will become habits that are as natural to you as your current right-sided practices are now.
2. Practice exercising your weaker side.
At first, you may find standing stably on your weaker leg to be a challenge, especially if you aren’t wearing shoes. Once you’ve been able to attain stability on a solid surface, try standing on a cushion. In addition to balancing, strengthening your weaker side can help you attain greater body symmetry, which leads to fewer injuries.
3. Ponder left-sided movements.
If you start thinking about your left side regularly, such as whenever you take a step with your left leg as you walk or climb stairs, your mental attentiveness to your left side will help strengthen the connection between your nerves and your weaker side.
By taking these 3 steps, you’ll avoid the problems that can come with excessive right-sidedness. You’ll also be more prepared in case you do break your right arm!
Daniel Baumstark is a Washington, D.C. physical therapist. Visit his website and ask questions via his blog at www.physiodc.com/blog.