Why are we taking the time to talk about the Thoracic Spine? Isn’t is just something to connect the lumbar spine to the neck? Yes, this is true, but it does so much more than that for the body. And, because of this mentality, it has been overlooked for many, many years. The lumbar spine is what most people think about when they have back pain, and everyone knows that without a cervical spine, the head would be all over the place.
So, what area of the spine are we discussing? The Thoracic Spine consists of the 12 vertibrae in the mid part of the spine between scapula. It starts just below C7 and goes all the way down to L1.
During movements, the thoracic spine is intended to be mobile. The lumbar spine is what is supposed to be stable. All too often, this is backwards, and the thoracic spine is stable instead of mobile and they are attempting to get motion out of the lumbar spine.
The thoracic spine is basically intended to perform 2 motions:
- Rotation-Allows us to move, reach and throw in mechanically sound ways. Many athletes will present with an asymmetry with this movement.
- Flexion/Extension-We typically have the flexion part figured out because of poor postural habits, but extension is another issue.
The Ripple Effect
A lack of Thoracic Spine mobility will affect the body in a great number of ways by causing compensatory changes throughout the kinetic chaiin to make up for this lack of movement. Some of the areas and/or movements affected are:
- Shoulder Health – Shoulder stability and mobility are very closely related to Thoracic Spine rotation and extension
- Overhead Movement Patterns – An athlete’s ability to press and/or hold an object overhead is a direct reflection on their Thoracic Spine mobility
- Shoulder Performance – The performance of the shoulder joint is highly dependent upon the foundations which is is built upon, thus having a big interaction with the Thoracic Spine.
- Sport Specific Movements – Many sporting movements including throwing, hitting, and martial arts movements depend upon the Thoracic Spine to rotate efficiently for quality, clean movement
- Overall Spinal Health – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, in order to balance a poor area, something has to give somewhere else.
As always, MTS is devoted to helping you not only understand the most complex and difficult injuries to the body, but we help you fix your athletes. So, the first thing is understanding how to recognize lack of Thoracic Spinal mobility.
Once you have read and understand how to recognize a lack of Thoracic Spinal mobility, you need to understand how to fix it. As we have talked, for the purposes of this discussion, you can seperate mobility restrictions into 2 categories:
Click on either of the links to learn how to fix each area of restriction.