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Why I Love Thoracic Spine Mobility for Almost Everything

Hey, it’s Jennifer. Today I want to talk to you about why I love mid back mobility, and how it can improve everything from overhead positioning, to squats, to running, and even just how anxious you’re feeling. When I say mid back, I’m talking about kind of the region between the shoulder blades; basically where your neck connects to your torso down to where a bra strap would be – that’s called the thoracic region.

It’s important for the three scenarios I just talked about, for example, because, let’s say you doing an movement that involves your arms being above your shoulders themselves to get, as high as you can get them, and then really, you need a little bit of extension in that mid back to get all the way overhead comfortably.

Let’s say you’re doing squats, and you’re kind of tight and rounded in the mid back area (imagine you’ve got a weight in the front – so like a goblet squat or a front squat) as you go down into your squat, instead of that mid back, extending and keeping yourself nice and upright, everything’s going to dump forward which makes really hard to stand up from a squat. The same goes for a back squat too. If you can’t keep that chest upright, and things are dumping down it’s going to be a lot harder to stand up.

For running: as you’re running, you need a little bit of rotation in your torso that counteracts the legs. If that’s locked up, that’s not going to feel as nice on top and you’re not going to be as efficient as you want to be.

In addition, there’s actually, there’s some emerging evidence that mobilizing that area can actually just help you feel calmer and more relaxed because there’s a big chain of fight or flight nerves that live right next to the spine in that area, and moving things around a little bit in there may actually help you feel less fight or flight and more common relaxed.

Anyway, what are my favorite ways to work on the thoracic spine? If you don’t have any equipment, you can just lie on the floor have one leg straight out, and then the top leg is rolled over onto the floor and you’re lying on your side with your arms are in front of you. Then, one thing you can do is just open up like you’re opening a book, keep the top knee on the ground, and get as far as you can over to the other side of the floor with the back of your arm. While you’re there, take a deep breath, and imagine your ribs expanding in all directions – not just forward backwards, but in 3D – and then come back.

Another one you can do in this position is take the arm on top and sweep it in a circle around so you get a little bit more mobility one way and then come back the other way.

You can also try getting into half kneeling position. Your hand from the same side as whatever leg is up is going to come inside your foot and you’re going to do a thread-the-needle reaching through and then opening up while watching your hand as it goes up towards the ceiling.

If you have a foam roller, foam rolling is always great, I would just advise you: a lot of people foam roll their mid back and they will be in a curved forward position similar to if they were hunched forward over our phones and desks and laptops and books and everything that we always do. We want to encourage a little bit of an opposite motion of opening up. Just support your head with your arms, let yourself arch over that foam roller and then go up and down that way.

I love a thoracic spine if I couldn’t work on anything else in a day that’s what I would work on and I hope that you can try some of these and feel a little bit better yourself!

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.