A starting point for almost every one of my clients is thoracic mobility.
Why? Because most people are often restricted with thoracic rotation, thoracic extension, or both.
Your thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae and each vertebral segment can elicit approximately 7 to 9 degrees of rotation. Compare this to the lumbar spine where each segment has roughly 1 to 2 degrees of rotation and you realize that the thoracic spine accounts for approximately 70 percent of total spinal rotation. This is of course is referring to a healthy spine. When the mobility of your mid back becomes compromised compensation is very likely to follow in other areas and can affect the shoulders, neck, low back, and hips very easily.
Why all the problems with the mobility in our mid backs?
Yup you guessed it! We like to sit. Or we are forced to sit all day at work, and then we come home and sit some more. There are other considerations of course; however, poor posture while sitting is a big one.
There are several strategies and techniques to help improve posture and thoracic mobility. I want to share with you the methods I have had the most success with.
First and foremost it is essential that you become more aware of your posture as often as you can. It takes practice and time to break habits but it is possible to stop slouching and sit up straight, even if it’s only for 2 minutes each hour or whenever you think of it. The more you are aware of your posture the better chance you have to correct it.
The next step is to address soft tissue. Keep in mind if you are currently suffering from pain it is best that you see a professional such as a registered massage therapist, a physiotherapist, a chiropractor, or an athletic therapist to have the area properly assessed.
As a means of regularly maintaining areas that are prone to increased tension a trigger point ball or foam roll are two tools that work fantastically to loosen up the soft tissue(s).
The first video explains how to use trigger point balls to loosen up your pectorals, lats, upper traps, and rhomboids. I would suggest targeting any areas of tension of the upper back and shoulders. The second part of the video takes you through a thoracic extension technique that also helps loosen up the associated paraspinal muscles.
The second video goes through how to use a foam roll to perform self myofascial release on your pectorals, lats, thoracic spine.
Both techniques provide similar benefits, choose which works best for you or alternate between them. Generally I use this type of mobilty work as part of a warm-up prior to a strength training session.
Stay tunned for Thoracic Mobility Part Two where I will review several mobility drills for the thoracic spine and then discuss the importance of reinforcing the mobility you create with appropriate stabilty exercises.