Why is Thoracic Mobility Important?
The thoracic spine is made for flexion, extension, and rotation. The thoracic spine is made to move and when it becomes immobile it can lead to cervical, shoulder and even lumbar (low back) pathologies. A lot of us get stuck in thoracic flexion or kyphosis because we are sitting at a desks or slumped in chairs. When excess thoracic flexion occurs it causes the head to move forward. With increased kyphosis the scapula or shoulder blades move into a poor position on the ribcage increasing injuries to the shoulder. Increased kyphosis decreases shoulder flexion and rotation, increases impingement and rotator cuff degeneration and other pathologies. Many times people will compensate with lumbar extension and this can lead to increased low back pain. Increased thoracic flexion leads to poor movement patterns and many potential injuries up and down the kinetic chain.
So what can we do to keep our thoracic spine healthy? Here are couple of easy exercises to keep the spine moving and mobile, thus protecting the neck and shoulder from future injury.
Lay on your side with arms out front and knees bent in front of you, stacked on top of one another. Place your bottom hand on top of your knees to keep low back stable and locked. The top arm will reach up to the ceiling and then continue as far as you can comfortably. Hold it there for 10 sec and then return to the start position. Do that 10 times.
Lay on your back with the foam roller under your mid back as pictured above. Place hands behind head to support neck and slowly extend over the foam roller. Do 5x and then move foam roller up one segment and repeat. Start from the bottom of thoracic spine which is below the bottom of the shoulder blades and move up to the top. Make sure that your buttocks stay on the ground.
Begin in a quadruped position. Then sit back a little bit to put your lumbar spine in a little bit of flexion. This will lock the lower back and allow the rotation to come from the thoracic spine. You can put your hand behind your head (as shown above) or reach with a straight arm up to the ceiling. Press the other arm down into the floor. Focus on opening the chest and only rotating in the upper back.