The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrate located between the seven cervical and five lumbar vertebrate. This region of the spine consists of a posterior curve in the spine and requires mobility for flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotational movements of the torso. Therefore, the thoracic spine is meant to be mobile, while the lumbar spine is meant for stability.
Both active and sedentary lifestyles affect thoracic mobility, or lack thereof. When poor posture exists, kyphosis, which is an increased posterior thoracic curve, results in rounded shoulders, forward-head tilt and anterior tilt of the pelvis. Lack of mobility may result in pain, discomfort and compensation in the areas above or below the thoracic region.
It is common for people who are sedentary to use their lumbar spine for mobility, which may result in lower-back pain. In addition, shoulder and neck discomfort may occur from immobile thoracic spines, as the scapula may not glide properly and the rounded shoulders decrease the sub-acromial space, the place where impingement may occur. Thus, faulty movement patterns must be retrained so the spine and kinetic chain function properly.
Increased and properly functioning thoracic mobility results in better movement, during both activities of daily living and during athletic pursuits. This results in efficient movement, better motor control and less energy expenditure.
The following mobility exercises can be used in personal-training sessions or as part of a group exercise warm-up. The goal is open the interconnected musculature between the “hips and the pits,” with emphasis on thoracic movements. The arms and thoracic spine move in all three planes of motion, integrating coordination and movement patterns as well as promoting mobility of the thoracic spine and hips.
This series can be completed for a certain number of repetitions (10 to 12 on each side, for example) or for a certain amount of time (20 to 30 seconds on each side). You may also choose to complete this routine either by focusing on the right side of the body first and then switching to the left, or by alternating right and left.
Standing Reach and Pulls
Purpose: Lateral flexion
How to Perform: Step the right foot behind (about one stride length) and remain on the ball of the right foot (heel off the ground). Bend the right elbow to 90-degrees and keep the left arm straight, fingers pointing to the floor. Reach the right arm overhead while laterally flexing the spine (toward the left) to feel the length through the right side body. Continue this motion before switching to the left side.
Standing Rotation (Basic)
Purpose: Rotation with slight extension
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