"The thoracic spine is built for rotation, flexion, and extension. It is highly mobile – or, rather, it has the potential for lots of mobility. Because of its mobility, the thoracic spine must be used, must be moved. But it has to be known. If people are unable to visualize and feel the movement of the thoracic spine, or if they’re unable to even grasp the concept of its existence, they’ll just attempt to twist, rotate, flex, and bend with something familiar to them: the lumbar spine. That’s bad news."
[Mark's Daily Apple]
One of the fastest ways to clean up a nagging shoulder, neck, or lower-back problem is to improve thoracic spine (aka mid-back) mobility with a mobilization, stretching and corrective exercise protocol that targets the area.
In my professional experience, thoracic spine mobility deficits are a HUGE problem in athletes and desk-jockeys alike. Many individuals who have chronic shoulder pain and difficulty lifting the arms up overhead are unaware of the connection between habitual posture and resulting mechanical changes that have occurred in the body.
A stiff or locked up thoracic spine literally forces you to compensate.
The thoracic spine runs from approximately the base of the neck to a few inches below the shoulder blades, is designed to have a slight outward (convex shaped) curve.
This curve can become larger than intended for a variety of reasons, primarily postural adaptation to excessive sitting, and mobile device/technology use. Pair that with resulting muscle imbalances and joint changes, then add faulty load patterns and mechanics and your mid-back area begins to lock itself down instead of moving freely.
Athletes with poor scapula (shoulder blade) position and movement, internal humeri (arm bone), rounded shoulders, forward head, altered rib cage movement and torso mechanical all cumulate into problems lifting and loading the arms overhead. In order to get the job done you'll have to compensate for these imbalances.
So you might get away with poor posture and movement mechanics for a period of time, but I promise you this. It will eventually catch up with you in the form of chronic pain, potential for acute injury, limitations or inability to perform particular shoulder movements.
Remember, the easiest way to keep everything in your body moving freely without common muscle and joint pain is through correct MOVEMENT and "Every human being should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves." [Dr. Kelley Starrett, mobilityWOD]
Come to Mobility and Corrective Exercise
Join me this Saturday, November 28 (10:00 - 11:00 am) at CrossFit 5885 (Apple Valley, MN) for a hands-on instructional self-mysofascial release and corrective exercise session focusing specifically on the thoracic spine.
This class is OPEN to members and the general public (drop-in is $20, and a 10 Class punch pass is $180)! If you plan to attend are are coming for the first time, please arrive 15 minutes early to fill in a waiver and secure payment).
Please bring the following equipment to class:
- Yoga Block
- Double and Single LAX ball
- Foam Roller
- Yoga Mat
Questions? Please reach out. Hope to see you there!
Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Head Photo Credit: Melissa Thome Photography
Author: Deb Preachuk is the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN. A CF-L1 Trainer, Certified Foundation Training & STOTT Pilates Instructor, Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, Deb has over 25 years experience in the health and wellness field. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or subscribe to her YouTube, Pinterest or Instagram pages.