Are You Restricted Through Your Thoracic Spine?

At Principle Four Osteopathy we currently see a wide variety of clients attend the clinic. These clients range from the desk worker who spends 8-10 hours of the day sitting working at a desk, through to the avid runner, crossfitter and powerlifter.  One thing that is interesting is that often clients from all of these completely different groups could benefit from being more mobile through their thoracic spine.

Individuals who are rigid through their thoracic spine, meaning they are often restricted in extension, rotation and side bending through would benefit from having greater mobility when both sitting and working and training.  Common findings associated with a stiff thoracic spine often result in compensation through ones hips, lower back, neck and upper limb girdle.

 

 

The Desk Worker and Avid Exercise Enthusiast

Typically the average worker will spend up to 8-10 hours per day sitting and performing computer based work tasks.  More often than not, the desk worker is likely to demonstrate a slouched seated posture that can locally result in stiffness and discomfort, but also reduce ones range of motion through the cervical spine, hips and upper limb girdle.  A nice little demonstration technique that I like to get all of my seated workers to perform in order to raise ones awareness of how slouched postures can impact them is to have them slouch and rotate their head left and right.  I will always ask them to take a mental note of how far they can turn their head and see left and right.  Following this I will have them sit in a more upright neutral posture and perform this movement again.  Much to their surprise they will often find out that they have can now turn their head much further left and right.  This is a result of the biomechanical change through the cervical spine as a result of slouched (increased thoracic spine kyphosis).  For those who require even more convincing, I will have them perform another movement.  Again I will have them slouch and then actively flex their shoulder as high as they can go without causing pain.  I will then have them sit in a more upright neutral posture and perform the active flexion again.  Surprise, Surprise 🙂 the client is again able to actively flex their shoulder through a greater range of motion.

So what does this all mean?  Often I will describe to the client that if they are sitting in a slouched posture all day, they are thereby only allowing their neck, shoulder and spine through only a portion of the range of motion that would be available to them if they were in a more upright neutral position.  So, when you put someone in this posture for static, prolonged durations performing repetitive tasks, the risk of injury goes up.

 

Tips To Improving Your Thoracic Spine Mobility

Generally getting up and being more mobile and aware of your posture is a great start to getting your spine moving more.  There are also a wide variety of exercises and mobility drills one can perform to get their spine moving more.

Below are some instagram videos from @osteoheathprinciple4osteopathy demonstrating some simple techniques to help with thoracic spine mobility.