For the 10% of people who are left-hand dominant, or left-handed, ambidexterity is much more prevalent. From scissors and cameras to bicycle gears and gas and brake pedals on automobiles, the world in which we live is definitely designed with right-handers in mind. Since 90% of people are right-side dominant, the prevalence of right-hand friendly designs makes sense. In some ways, though, such seeming unfriendliness to lefties actually benefits them by encouraging them to use their right sides, even though their left side is more dominant. Countering that concept, right-handers are rarely required to develop strength and dexterity in their left sides, which can end up handicapping them, in some ways.
Of course, the obvious situation in which ambidexterity can be beneficial is if a person breaks or otherwise damages a dominant limb. Being able to perform everyday functions, such as writing, can become challenging if the muscles of the weaker hand have not been trained to work hard. But even beyond such potential situations, there are difficulties that typically accompany excessive right-handedness.
While right-hand dominance is often referred to as right-handedness, the main clinical problems that come up stem from weakness of the left leg and hip. The underuse of the left buttocks and nearby hip stabilizing muscles can result in sciatica, hip bursitis, or lower back pain. To discover whether you might be at risk for such painful conditions, you’ll need to evaluate your left side usage. Here are two questions to consider:
1. Where do you place the majority of your weight when standing or sitting?
If you observe many right-handed people, you’ll notice that many shift their weight to their right hips when standing still and then cross their left legs over their right legs when sitting. Both those postures include placing their weight onto their dominant right side, which causes underuse of their left sides and promoting left-sided weakness.
If you notice that your posture may put you at risk, consciously place equal weight on both legs while standing and sitting. In time, such behaviors will become automatic.
2. How are you purposely strengthening your weaker side?
If you were asked to balance on one leg for any length of time, you would likely be much more adept at doing so on your dominant leg (probably your right leg). After you have become more adept at balancing on your weaker leg without shoes, you can try doing so on a cushion or other, less stable, surface, until your left leg gets tired. Such strength training of your weaker side can improve your body symmetry and decrease chances of injury. (The evaluation tool on Wii Fit Plus focuses on the importance of such balance.)
Another way to strengthen the neural connections with your weaker side is to count your left steps as you ascend stairs and walk, in general. This practice will help your brain to pay attention to your left side.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists, physical trainers & nutritionists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website for more information.