Thoracic Spine Mobility – Why is it important?

Thoracic Spine Mobility - Why is it important? - Invigorate Health and Performance

Hey there! The time has come for me to talk to you about how important having a thoracic spine is.

The thoracic spine is the area of your spine that runs from your neck to your lower back, and it is responsible for supporting your ribcage and protecting your internal organs. The thoracic spine also plays a crucial role in your posture and movement. So, let’s dive into why it is essential to keep this part of your spine mobile and how you can achieve it.

What can occur if our thoracic spine is stiff and not mobile?

When the thoracic spine is not mobile, it can lead to several problems. One of the most common issues is poor posture, which can cause pain in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. It can also result in headaches and restricted breathing. When your thoracic spine is stiff, you may find it difficult to twist or rotate your upper body, making it hard to perform certain activities, such as playing sports or carrying heavy objects. A stiff thoracic spine can also be detrimental in weightlifting, CrossFit and Olympic lifting as your require good thoracic extension to be able to squat and to hold weight overhead while completing a squat or performing a push jerk/military press.

Another issue that could arise from a lack of thoracic spine mobility is nervous tissue exiting the thoracic spine. This can be due to compression through the foramina that the spinal nerves exit or from tight musculature. The compression of nerves can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling sensations.

Benefits of having increased mobility through the thoracic spine

On the other hand, having increased mobility through the thoracic spine can provide numerous benefits. A mobile thoracic spine allows for greater range of motion, making it easier to perform daily activities such as bending, lifting, and twisting. This increased range of motion also means less stress on other parts of the body, reducing the risk of injuries. Improved thoracic spine mobility can also help prevent pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. It can also enhance your posture, making you appear taller and more confident. Good posture also promotes efficient breathing which in turn can help reduce stress and anxiety.

What kinds of exercises/activities can we do to improve the mobility of the thoracic spine?

Now that we have discussed why it is essential to keep your thoracic spine mobile lets talk about how you can achieve it. There are several exercises and activities that can help improve the mobility of your thoracic spine.

  1. Thoracic spine rotations: Lie on your side with your knees bent and your arms outstretched in front of you. Slowly rotate your top arm and shoulder towards the floor behind you while keeping your hips and knees still. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  2. Cat-cow stretch: Get on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Inhale and arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling (this is the “cow” part). Exhale and round your spine, tucking your chin towards your chest and bringing your tailbone towards your knees (this is the “cat” part). Repeat for several breaths.
  3. Foam rolling: Place a foam roller underneath your shoulder blades and lie on your back. Slowly roll up and down your spine, pausing on any tender spots.
  4. Thread the needle: Starting on all fours, stack your hips directly above your knees and position your shoulders directly over your hands. Open your chest to the right as you extend your right arm toward the ceiling. Then begin to move your right arm under your chest toward the mat. Keep both knees and your left arm grounded for support. Continue to slide your right arm onto the mat, allowing your right shoulder to rest on the mat.
  5. Mobility drills: Various mobility drills, such as scapula slides and shoulder circles, can also help improve thoracic spine mobility.

In conclusion, the mobility of the thoracic spine is crucial for maintaining good posture, reducing pain and stiffness, and preventing injuries. By incorporating exercises and activities that focus on improving thoracic spine mobility, you can experience significant benefits that will improve your quality of life.

Written by Nicholas Dimos (Physiotherapist)