The Importance of the Thoracic Spine
The spine has 3 regions. Cervical spine is at the top, made up of 7 vertebrae and tends to have a concave curvature known as lordosis. Thoracic spine is the mid back, made of up 12 segments and should have a convex curve known as a kyphosis. Lastly, is the lumbar spine, or lower back, made up of 5 segments and like the cervical spine has a lordosis. Notice from this that the thoracic spine is the largest section and is the midway, or the connection, between the two other regions. This greatly affects how our spine and therefore all of its connecting limbs function. The segments with a lordosis naturally allow us to extend more easily. The thoracic spine, with its kyphosis predisposes us to flex. This is heightened in today’s world with all of our devices, desks, even our gym equipment encouraging even further flexion (we tend to exercise the muscles we can see more- the shoulders, chest, abs, etc). Over time, our thoracic spine gets stiff and less mobile. Poor mobility in the thoracic spine will affect the mobility of the regions above and below it. For example, the scapula’s (or shoulder blades) rest on the rib cage which attach to the thoracic spine. Poor mobility in the thoracic spine will lead to poor mobility of the shoulder blades and eventually the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.
Luckily, there are some simple exercises that can be done at home and with minimal equipment. To encourage rotation of the thoracic spine, try an open book. Lay on your side, curl your knees as far into your chest as you are able and then rotate the trunk, neck and head to one side as far as you can. Try a set of 10 with a 5 count hold on each side. To encourage extension of the thoracic spine try a cat/cow exercise. Start on all 4’s with your spine as straight/neutral as it can be. Raise the mid back up trying to round or hollow out as much as you can. Then, sink into an arch, allowing each segment from the top or the head to the tailbone to try to extend as much as able. Again, try approximately 10 reps with a 5 count hold. Finally, a foam roller can be a great tool to add to your home in order to incorporate self-massage, self-stretches, and self-mobilization techniques.
If you would like to learn more techniques or have questions about starting your own exercise program we can help. Our physical and occupational therapists are available to develop a protocol to fit your needs. Call or log on to www.mmidocs.com today to learn more or to schedule your appointment. We are committed to helping you live your best life.