Unfortunately, our society has become increasingly inactive, as a result our thoracic mobility has suffered. Due to work commitments or education, many of us sit at desks all day. We hunch over to use our smartphones and do the same while we drive our cars. The amount of time we spend in these positions is more than ever before. As a result, our posture and ability to move through our thoracic spine has deteriorated. A stiff thoracic spine, or T1-T12 vertebrae, can spell trouble for both your shoulders and lower back.
The T Spine
Your thoracic spine is the middle section of your back, between your neck and lower back. The thoracic spine composes of 12 thoracic vertebras and your rib cage. Thoracic mobility involves available movement of this portion of the spine and is very important for achieving or maintain good posture. Good movement in the thoracic spine is essential to remain pain free for sports and modern day lifestyles. Poor movement at this area can increase thoracic conditions such as kyphosis (rounded upper back) leading to complications with back, neck and shoulders, but also can lead to reduced upper and lower limb movements.
T Spine in Sports
Many sports place a huge demand on the ability to utilise thoracic mobility coupled with good upper and lower limb movement. This creates a better power output and subsequently an increase in performance. Sports such as swimming, golf, kayaking and tennis all require good thoracic extension and rotation. Decreased thoracic mobility decreases the range of shoulder movements particularly elevation (lifting overhead) by changing the position of the shoulder blade on the rib cage.
One major area often seen in CrossFit athletes and powerlifters is issues with squatting associated with stiff thoracic spines. Decreased thoracic mobility makes it harder to get under a bar, leading to wider hand placements. Secondly, a lot of missed lift occur because the chest is unable to open up due to stiffness in the thoracic spine and decreased strength in the upper back muscles. This pushes the body weight forward making the lift harder.
How to test decreased thoracic mobility?
A simple test is to sit slouched and lift your arms up, then re test sitting up straight and in good posture. If you notice a difference in how far your arms lift behind your ears from one position to the next, then chances are your thoracic mobility needs improving.
Standing or seated upper body rotations.
This test can either be performed in a seated or standing position. Cross your arms over your chest. Then rotate to your right as far as you can. Its best to do this test with a partner, so they can note how much spinal rotation you achieve. Repeat this to your left side. You can then compare left to right and compare each other’s spinal rotations. A good amount of thoracic rotation is if you can get roughly 45 degrees of rotation.
What exercise can I do to improve my thoracic rotation?
T spine Rolls
Thread the needle
Here at Comfort Health
We have a team of experienced therapist at Comfort Health all who can help with any limitations you may be experiencing and provide you with relevant exercises/treatment to improve your mobility. Click HERE to get in contact today!