This week, we explored arguably one of the most significant areas of the body when it comes to contributing to pathology.
The thoracic spine is 12 segments (vertebrae) that are the bridge between the cervical spine and lumbar spine. On top of that, the ribs/ribcage articulate with the thoracic spine, and that scapula articulates with the ribcage…this creates a pivotal relationship with the thoracic spine and the shoulders.
From an anatomical standpoint, we would love the thoracic spine to be able to move in the following degrees of motion (roughly):
- Flexion: 20-45 degrees
- Extension: 20-45 degrees
- Rotation: 35-50 degrees
- Side bend: 20-40 degrees
Unfortunately, as we become more and more a desk bound population, we tend to see a lot of this type of posture. Consequently, we adapt to a more thoracic flexion dominant posture, and we lose our ability to extend well, and rotate.
This creates issues for us, because as we know, when the body wants motion, it will take it where it can get it! For example: if we want 180 degrees of shoulder flexion, but the thoracic spine cannot contribute its normal extension amount, the body will steal excess or inappropriate motion from the shoulder complex.
As you can see, this can be a slippery slope on the way to injury-ville, USA.
The same goes for neck range of motion. When we lose our ability to extend and rotate at the upper thoracic spine, our body will often times steal it from the lower cervical region which is supposed to be relatively “stable.” Consequently…well you get the point.
At the end of the day, dosing thoracic mobility is one of the most impactful things you can do on a daily basis to help improve our chances of not developing injuries in the surrounding joints, but especially the shoulder and neck. Simply put, thoracic extension is the lowest of hanging fruits in terms of “kinetic hygiene.”
This week, we have put together a few VERY EFFECTIVE ways to dose thoracic mobility, both from a bony/joint approach, and a soft tissue approach.
I started off the week with my personal favorite, a catch-all thoracic mobility exercise that gets us into thoracic extension AND rotation…enter the “thoracic windmill.” See the post below for further details and instructions on execution.
#KineticHygiene: Thoracic Mobility . To all my general population friends out there, this one is for you, so please listen up! ••• Whether it is patients coming in for shoulder, neck, or low back, the common denominator, A LOT of the times, is a thoracic spine that lacks mobility, particularly into extension and rotation. . I cannot tell you how many people can truly benefit from dosing daily thoracic mobility, especially those of you who are desk bound everyday. Generally speaking, we are migrating more and more towards a “rounded shoulder” and “slouched” posture, and trust me, I do not want to be posture police 🚓. However, if we spend the majority of our day in thoracic flexion, it would make sense to spend a little time daily mobilizing into its counterpart, extension and rotation. . Lets look at the thoracic spine. Truly, it is at the epicenter of the the upper and lower extremities, connecting to the cervical spine, ribcage/shoulder blade/shoulder, and low back. If we can dose movement through this region, one very important thing can happen ⬇️ . Simply put, if the thoracic spine cannot move as we would like it too, the low back, shoulder, and neck are all potential joints that will afford this range of motion, and potentially leave those joints susceptible to injury😩 ••• Here is my FAVORITE thoracic mobility drill that I dose on a daily basis: Thoracic “Windmill.” Try with 10 reps each side daily. *Shoulder injuries would be a possible contra indication. 1️⃣Sidelye with something propping up your head, bring top hip to 90 degrees and drape over foam roller to lock lumbar spine 2️⃣Reach up and over sweeping your top arm above your head into a full semi circle and make sure to follow with head, neck, and eyes! 3️⃣ Close top arm back across body. @strong_by_science @joegambinodpt @strengthcoachtherapy ________________________________________________________ #simplestrengthphysio #physicaltherapy #PT #DPT #DPTstudent #physio #fitness #workout #health #training #exercise #crossfit #strength #sports #wellness #weightlifting #powerlifting #athlete #recovery #performance #movement #strengthtraining #athletes #mobility #healthandwellness #sports
Following this up, Joe demonstrated an excellent mobility technique for pure thoracic extension, and followed it up with a dynamic way to not only improve thoracic mobility, but also drill in scapular stability, which will be covered in greater detail next week!
Kinetic Hygiene Thoracic Spine Extension ________________________________________ Yesterday Zak ( @simplestrengthphysio ) spoke to TSpine rotation and its importance in improving neck, shoulder and low back dysfunction. . Today I am going to talk about the other necessary motion of the TSpine, Extension. ••• The thoracic spine is limited in many people due to today's lifestyle, and is observed in just about every upper extremity injury I see that is not cause by external forces. Here are 2 of my favorite drills to improve Extension of the upper back. ________________________________________ 1️⃣Cat-Cow with lumbar block (vid on left) is used to help promote upper back Extension without allowing for compensation from the lumbar spine. • Sit on your heels and place your hands on the floor. • Extend your upper back as much as possible without moving too much from your head. •Then round your back as much as possible with minimal head movement. •Repeat x 10 reps. 2️⃣Sphinx with shoulder reaches (vid on right) in this context is to promote upper back extension and shoulder stability at the same time. •Lay on your stomach and prop yourself on your elbows. •Push your elbows through the floor as to push your shoulder blades into protraction and to make yourself "taller." •Reach out with one arm without losing your scap position. •Reach with the opposite arm. • Repeat for x 6 reps per side. ________________________________________ Questions, comments, concerns let me know 👇 @strengthcoachtherapy @strong_by_science
Finally Teddy composed EIGHT variations of soft tissue techniques to help mobilize tissues that directly impact thoracic mobility such as the Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, posterior capsule of the shoulder, and posterior rotator cuff muscles.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope this was helpful for you!