You know those old people you see getting around with a ‘U’ shaped kink in their spine. Doesn’t look comfortable, does it? Well, that’s where we’re all heading if we keep living in front of electronics without paying attention to our thoracic spine.
Step 1 - Loosen Up
The first step in addressing thoracic spine mobility is to loosen the area up. This can be done with a foam roller. When you use a foam roller on your thoracic spine it puts you into extension—the opposite of rounded shoulders. You’ll probably hear a few cracks and it should feel really good.
Foam rolling the thoracic spine helps to get some mobility in the vertebral joints. Here’s how to do it:
- Place a foam roller across the middle of your back just below your shoulder blades.
- Hug yourself tightly so that your shoulder blades move away from your spine.
- Keeping your neck in a neutral position.
- Slowly begin to roll up to the top of your shoulder blades (don’t roll your neck area) and down to the bottom of your rib cage (don’t roll over your lumbar spine).
- Don’t just roll up and down. Go slow and spend time on each segment of the thoracic spine.
- If you hit a sore spot, hang out for 30 seconds or more.
- Once you’ve made some change in an area, move to a new segment.
- Don’t let your ribs flare up or overextend.
Step 2 - Get Your Rotation On
The next step is to address the rotation piece. Your thoracic spine is designed to rotate between 35-40 degrees. If it’s stiff as a board, you’ll get movement in stable joints like the lumbar spine.
A good exercise for improving rotation is the lumbar/shoulder lock with thoracic rotation. Here’s how to do it:
- Get into child’s pose on the ground by bringing your feet and knees together and sit back on their heels.
- Place one forearm at mid-line on the ground and the other arm behind your back (see video).
- Then twist as far as you can while maintaining your arm position and lower body on the floor (don’t let your hips pop up to compensate and ‘cheat’). By being in quadruped position, your lumbar spine is ‘locked’, which forces rotation to come from the thoracic spine.
Step 3 - Rib Cage Mobilization
The thoracic spine is connected to the rib cage. So, the last step is to make sure we’re doing some rib cage mobilizations. You can use a foam roller for this exercise. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the foam roller perpendicular to the body just under your armpit and across the lats.
- Roll up and down to help mobilize the rib cage while hitting the lats as well.
How Often Should You Do the Exercises?
If you failed the thoracic spine mobility tests miserably, do these every day until you’ve restored a normal range of motion. Then, you can decrease the frequency to maintain your new mobility.
If you’re a mobility ninja and killed it on the tests, just do some work on the thoracic spine as needed. For example, after spending a lot of time hunched forward over a computer.
If you spend any time in front of a computer or phone, your thoracic spine probably needs some love. So, here are some great general exercises you can use as warm-ups or after a long day at a desk.
Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) spend two minutes a day on the first three exercises listed above. Carve out around six minutes and commit to improving your thoracic spine mobility. As Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.
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You can also share some love by adding a comment below. Let me know what your favourite exercises are for mobilizing the thoracic spine.
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