Mobile Monday: Thoracic mobility
The key to many neck and shoulder injuries, your thorax needs to be mobile and in control, otherwise everything working off it… eventually feels the hurt.
Thoracic mobility is one of the most overlooked aspects of injury prevention and although this part of your spine doesn’t have as much movement as above and below it, it is very important none the less and here are a quick few reasons:
1. A stiff or weak upper spine means other areas have to compensate and move MORE, leading to shoulder, neck and low back injuries and pain.
2. Because your ribs attach to the thoracic spine, if the spine is stiff, locked up or just not moving correctly then the ribs are not going to move optimally when you breathe – leading to a lower breathing capacity and less basal lung expansion (the most important area of the lung).
3. If you work at a desk or live on the couch, your thoracic spine ends up hunched over, your pecs get tight and you just feel stuck – this makes your shoulders sit forward, increasing the risk of sub-acromial pain and makes your head stick forward = causing headaches and neck pain.
So, to get you to 100% here is an exercise to improve thoracic mobility and improve every aspect of your movement – and it just takes 5 minutes!
Thoracic extensions: Mobilising into extension is my a definite go to exercise for all shoulder and spinal/back pain as this unloads all those areas. Extension in the thoracic spine is coupled with rotation, so if you gain extension, you also gain rotation!
Tools needed: There are specific tools that you can use such as foam rollers and 1/2 foam rolls (my favorite), but if this is too much for the budget then you can roll up a towel very, very firmly and tape it up.
Position: Lying on your back place the roll under your upper back, starting above the curve of your low back. With your knees bent up and feet planted on the ground bring your arms all the ways up above your head so that you stretch your upper body right out and then bring then down to your side (like a big snow angel).
Bridging your bottom off the ground can add to the stretch!
Reps and sets: You will need to move the roll up your back to get the different levels. Spend 30 seconds on each level, extending your arms above your head towards the ground and then down to your side repeated.
Do this exercise daily and you will see a great improvement in not only thoracic mobility but in all aspects of your life including, from overhead gym work and your golf swing to looking over your shoulder when driving.