Thoracic spine mobility – What is it, why is it important and how can we achieve it?
The thoracic spine is located in the middle to upper portion of the back and consists of 12 vertebrae. The joints of the thoracic spine are very important to our arm/shoulder movement, twisting and bending.
It is in the thoracic spine that we see the most dysfunction (compared to cervical or lumbar regions) which can cause issues in the shoulders, hips and cervical spine. This happens because of our daily lives. Most of us are sitting for breakfast, sitting while driving to work, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, sitting driving home, sitting eating dinner and then maybe exercise for an hour 3 days a week without doing any corrective exercises to negate the imbalances we create by all this sitting.
We end up with tight pectoral or chest muscles, weak rhomboids and dead lower traps which makes us look like we are hunched over. This is called kyphosis or has been called upper cross syndrome.
Why is it important?
The bad part about kyphosis is it doesn’t only affect the upper body in the form of limited range of motion in the shoulders and the inability to rotate from the middle back, but it can also limit breathing capacity, restriction of energy flow and even cause headaches.
Typically, if you have a person with upper cross syndrome they likely have issues with the lower body in the form of, you guessed it, lower cross syndrome. When a person has lower cross syndrome with a kyphotic posture they will show a posterior tilt or a flat butt.
This forces the glutes to constantly be turned on which will turn off the low back muscles which can cause lower back pain and hip issues. This can be an issue when you begin to exercise, strength train or even play sports. It will limit your range of motion, cause compensation patterns and eventually cause injury.
So how do we achieve thoracic spine mobility?
The good news is, all of these issues can be avoided or at least alleviated if the right protocol is followed. Stretching the pectorals regularly, ensuring you sit with good posture when sitting, getting up and moving around every 20 minutes or so to avoid holding patterns, adding exercises to strengthen the rhomboids and lower traps (face-pulls and band pull aparts).
To go with these simple steps, I have compiled a video of 4 of my favorite thoracic mobility exercises to ensure good thoracic posture, thoracic rotation and shoulder stability. You can do these as part of your warm up or you could do these as part of your morning or nightly routine to increase performance in the gym, decrease the risk of injury, increase your energy levels, lower frequency of headaches and increase breathing capacity.
So contact me through here to receive my video. If you use these regularly, you will reap the benefits of a healthier and more freely moving body.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Michael Keane