Do you ever wonder why Disney didn’t have a dance number in which Quasimodo did the limbo? This is because there is no way he could have; he presented with severe kyphosis. But before I can describe what kyphosis is and why it wouldn’t let him break out those dance moves, it is important to explain what the thoracic spine is.
The thoracic spine is the longest region of the spine. It is made up of 12 vertebrae. It is the only spinal region attached to the rib cage. Most of the back’s rotation comes from the thoracic spine with an average of 30-35 deg total to each side. Kyphosis is a curve of the thoracic spine in which it is bent forward. Kyphosis can be caused by degenerative diseases or in most cases poor posture overtime.
So why is it important to keep the thoracic spine so healthy?
My neck, my back, my PAIN just like that
The thoracic spine is responsible for most of the rotation of your back. If the thoracic spine is hypomobile (decrease in mobility) then the other spinal segments of your cervical and lumbar spines have to make up for it. Because most people lack strength of the deep core, increased rotation can cause low back pain.
Every breath you take…
Remember how I said that the ribs attach to the thoracic spine? Well if the thoracic spine lacks movement, so will the ribs. This will not allow the ribcage to expand like it should. When this happens, people will use accessory muscles for respiration. These muscles are: Sternocleidomastoid, pectoralis major and minor, latissimus dorsi. When these muscles are overused, they can cause neck and upper back pain. And you know what else?! The diaphragm attaches to the 11th and 12th ribs. So the diaphragm wont expand well and those deep breaths will be harder to take. Improving your thoracic mobility will actually increase lung capacity!
Scaps are Wack
The Shoulder blades or scapulae lay on the rib cage. When the thoracic spine is in kyphosis, the scapulae will move away from the spine with lack of thoracic mobility. This will make overhead motions with her shoulders painful and hard to do. Hello rotator cuff injury, I am talking about you! The scapula has to glide appropriately on the rib cage when you lift your arm, and if it is not doing this then that it is a sure fire way to cause pain in the shoulder.
So you might be wondering what you can do to improve thoracic mobility?
Thread the needle
Start on your side on the floor with your elbow directly underneath your shoulder and feet and knees stacked. Lift your hips up into a side plank with your free arm up toward the ceiling. Take your free arm and thread it through the open space underneath you while you rotate your shoulders and hips toward the floor.
Lay on floor in a side lying position, flex the top hip to 90 degrees and support the knee with a foam roll and keep the foot on the ground. The head is supported by a towel roll. Reach under your ribs with the top hand. Begin rotating your top shoulder to the floor and pull the ribs in the direction you are rotating. Maintain contact between the knee and the foam roll. Then return to the starting position by rotating back to a neutral position.
Thoracic Extension on foam roller
Put the foam roller under your upper back / thoracic spine. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your hands behind your head and pull your elbows as close together as they'll go. Let your head fall to the floor and try to wrap yourself around the foam roller, extending the thoracic spine over the roller. Roll, slowly up and down the vertebrae, pausing on any painful parts (do not roll the neck or lower back, focusing solely on the thoracic spine).
How can you get more information on exercises for thoracic mobility?
Contact Natalie Kimball Fitness and Join the #NKFitsquad!
& Drop a like if you found this to be helpful!
Amy Carollo, DPT
Women's Health & Fitness Specialist.