This little post is for everyone that sits on a computer for the majority of their day; to let you know about the importance of Thoracic Mobility. The spine is split up into different segments depending on its function; there is the Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar and Coccyx. The Thoracic Spine (T Spine) are the 12 vertebrae that the ribs attach onto, the range of motion into flexion and extension is limited but the orientation of the thoracic vertebrae allows us to rotate well. During a long day of sitting the T Spine is loaded considerably and begins to form a more flexed position, this is what we would term Kyphotic. Because the upper back is so flexed we then need to extend through the neck to keep the eye line normal, putting a lot of stress through the neck extensors. The shoulder blades begin to slip around to the sides of the ribcage as they become more rounded. This will cause a weakening and lengthening of the rhomboids and mid to lower traps and increase tightness through the pectorals and the upper traps. You might get pain into your shoulders, between the shoulder blades, the neck, the base of your head and headaches. Sound familiar?
If you then begin to maintain this seated position over many days, even years, it will become more difficult for you to get out of your flexed position and the postural muscles will become weaker and unable to support you efficiently. Lacking mobility through your T Spine can have a great effect on the rest of the body; commonly increasing the incidence of shoulder injuries, switching off the abdominals, increasing stress through the lower back, tightening the front of the hips and increasing tension through the hamstrings. Many of our favourite activities like cycling, swimming and running will all be affected by a lack of Tspine mobility, causing other muscles to overwork and become injured.
So we need to help ourselves by mobilising the Tspine and keep the aches and the pains away, trying to work into extension and rotation to help counteract the every day flexed position. I have chosen my favourite mobility exercises for you to have a go at, and a little routine to keep moving whilst in front of your computer at work.
Laying over a foam roller or a rolled up towel.
Ensure the roller or towel is horizontal just under your shoulder blades. Make sure you support your head with pillows, bend the knees so your feet are flat on the floor and take your arms from by your sides to over head. Ten times.
Lay on your side knees bent and arms out in front one on top of the other. Open the top arm into a big semi circle move the head round until the eyes move up to the ceiling. You can drop the top knee down to the floor to increase the stretch through the back. Do five on the left and five on the right.
These next exercises can be done at work or in front of the computer, so if you have a long day make sure you fit them in every couple of hours:
Cross the arms across the chest. Rotate 90 degrees round to the left. Five times with the head following then five times keeping the head forward. Then do the same around to the right.
Rolling the shoulders back:
sit up tall and roll your shoulders backwards pulling your shoulder blades back and down five times.
These will help with the pain often associated with the rounded shoulder position. Sitting up tall take your right ear down to the right shoulder and use your right hand to gently pull the ear to the shoulder. You should feel a stretch down the left side of the neck. Then move the head to 45 degrees from the right and nod the chin to the chest. Use your right hand to pull down gently; you should feel the stretch move more around the back of the neck. Hold these for 20 seconds and then repeat on the left side.
Keep your self mobile and free from common pains with some thoracic mobility exercises, but if you are suffering with pain into your neck and shoulders regularly I would recommend going to see a health care practitioner for a thorough examination and some treatment.
Thank you to Chris for being my model this week!