At some point in their lives, roughly 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point. Are you part of this group? Are you desperate for some back pain relief?
One way that you can reduce back pain is to work on your mobility in the thoracic region of your spine. Read on to learn more about the importance of good thoracic mobility, as well as how you can improve your range of motion in this area.
What is the Thoracic Spine?
The thoracic region is located in the middle portion of the spine. It’s comprised of 12 individual vertebrae and begins near the base of the neck and ends near the bottom of the rib cage.
Poor Thoracic Mobility Increases the Need for Back Pain Relief
Modern life contributes to poor thoracic mobility in a variety of ways. For example, most of us spend a good portion of our day sitting at a desk, in a car, on the couch, etc.
When we’re sitting, we’re usually not sitting up straight with our spine in perfect alignment. Instead, we’re slumped over, creating an exaggerated curvature (flexion) in our thoracic spine. When we do this for days on end, it can lead to trouble with thoracic extension.
Difficulty with thoracic extension leads to poor posture, which can cause or exacerbate back pain, as well as pain in the neck and shoulders. You may be more prone to injuries as a result. This includes injuries to the rotator cuffs, neck, and lower back (lumbar spine), as you may end up placing more pressure on these areas to make up for the lack of extension in your thoracic spine.
When you have mobility problems in your thoracic spine, it’s not just a lack of extension that becomes an issue. You may also have difficulty with spinal rotation.
Trouble rotating can make it hard for you to do basic things like turn in your chair to talk to a coworker. Again, you may also be more prone to injuries since other areas of the body will have to work harder to compensate for your inability to rotate your spine.
Signs You Need to Improve Thoracic Mobility
It’s not always easy to tell if you’re dealing with poor thoracic mobility. However, here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Difficulty keeping your chest lifted, especially when doing exercises like squats or lunges
- Poor posture (rounded shoulders, head protruding forward) when sitting, standing, and/or walking
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Difficulty twisting or rotating the spine
- Difficulty taking deep breaths (poor thoracic mobility can compress the respiratory muscles)
If any of these signs resonate with you, there’s a good chance that you need to make thoracic mobility more of a priority.
How to Improve Thoracic Mobility
The following exercises are great ones to add to your routine if you’re looking to improve your range of motion in your thoracic spine and enjoy some neck or back pain relief:
Thread the Needle
To do this thoracic and upper body mobility exercise, start by kneeling on all fours. Reach up toward the ceiling with your right hand while keeping your left planted on the floor. Then, bring the right hand down to the ground and slide it under your torso so that you’re looking under your left arm.
Hold this position for 3-5 deep breaths, then reach back up to the ceiling before replacing your right hand on the ground once more. Repeat on the left side.
For this exercise, lay on the ground on your stomach (prone position). Extend your arms out to your sides so they form a “T” shape.
Bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your glutes, then slowly cross it over and bring the foot up toward your left hand (it doesn’t have to touch, but it should go in that general direction). Tap your foot on your hand (or close to it), then bring it back to the starting position. Repeat on the left side.
Start on all fours, with the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Inhale and drop your belly down toward the floor while looking up toward the ceiling. Exhale and round your back while tucking in your chin and tailbone.
Downward Facing Dog to Plank
Start on all fours once more, then step your feet back so you’re in a plank position. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between your hands and feet, then lift your tailbone up toward the ceiling so you’re in a downward-facing dog pose.
Hold for a second, then shift your weight forward and return to a plank pose.
Supine Open Book Twist
Lie flat on your back (supine position) with your arms extended in a “T” shape. Bring your right knee in toward your chest, then cross it over your body and try to rest it on the ground. Place your left hand on your knee to hold it in place. Reach over with your right hand so that your torso is facing the left side, then bring your right hand back over to the right side, opening the chest and twisting the spine.
Repeat 6-8 times on this side of the body, then switch and repeat with the left knee tucked in.
Work on Your Mobility and Experience Back Pain Relief Today
Try these thoracic mobility exercises today. If you practice them on a regular basis, you’ll soon find that your pain improves and you can move with more ease in the gym and while going about your daily routine.
Here’s a video demonstrating each of the exercises outlined above in case you need more guidance:
Do you need to make your thoracic mobility more of a priority? Comment below and let me know!