Wait! Before going any further, answer the following questions…
- Have you ever felt tight and restricted in your mid to upper spine?
- Does your job require sitting at a desk throughout the day?
- Is one of your goals to increase posture and mobility of the upper body?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, identifying whether or not you lack mobility in the thoracic spine is important. And if so, this article will show you exactly what to do about!
The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae between the neck and lower back. Essentially, it’s the largest part of our spine that often gets abused thanks to the growing use of technology, sitting for extended periods of time, and even a well executed exercise routine.
Despite the thoracic spine being a crucial area for proper function of the spine, neck, and shoulder regions, it’s not commonly painful. Instead what you’ll find is lack of mobility in extension, lateral flexion, and rotation. This is often hard to perceive outside of the normal feeling of tension, and therefore needs to be properly assessed to determine it’s severity.
How to self-assess your thoracic spine mobility in rotation? The Seated Thoracic Spine Rotation Test is the best starting point.
In the video below, I provide a quick demonstration on how to properly assess rotation at the thoracic spine. This is very easy to perform at home while sitting directly in the doorway. Simply, face the open side of the doorway with the shins touching the wall and try to rotate fully to either side. Plain and simple, can you touch the doorway with the broomstick?
Now that you have a more clear cut understanding of how much thoracic rotation you possess, what do you do about it? Well, if you could easily touch the broomstick to the door jamb then you can rest assured that the following drills aren’t necessary for you. But if you could not, we have work to do!
Two beneficial drills that come to mind are the sidelying thoracic spine rotation and bench thoracic extension. Please watch the video below to learn how to properly perform these drills for improved thoracic rotation..
Now that you have a better understanding regarding mobility of your thoracic spine and two helpful drills to improve function, it’s important to realize how much effort it takes to make an impact. If you are sitting 8-10 hours a day and uncovered a severe limitation in mobility, performing these drills every hour might be needed to see reliable results. However, if there was only a mild limitation then adding them to your daily mobility routine might be enough. The key is to be consistent day after day and re-assess periodically to gauge progress. And, always consider removing any excess sitting or tasks that require you to be in a forward rounded posture.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART