In the MatchFit clinic it is quite common to see people with a flexed spine, rounded shoulders and overly tight paraspinal muscles all contributing to poor thoracic mobility. This lack of movement in the mid spine will lead to restricted rotation and extension and also to restricted shoulder movements. To perform optimally in training and to perform required motions without injury requires good thoracic mobility and shoulder range of motion.
Here are a few Thoracic Mobility exercises that you can perform to help enhance your spinal mobility.
As well as working on extension it is also beneficial to work on rotation, as a form of injury prevention, to help posture and increase mobility in the spine.
It is common to use a foam roller to help thoracic mobility, this clip shows how you can use one effectively to incorporate extension and rotation.
Simple foam rolling to start with will loosen off the soft tissue of the thoracic spine reducing tightness that may contribute to poor mobility. Roll up and down spending time on areas that feel particularly tight. Next move onto extension, working on various stiff segments of the spine, repeating about 10 extension mobilisations at each. Lastly you can work on rotation. Make sure the lower back is stable and the movement comes from the thoracic area, extending the arms up towards the ceiling allows for good visualisation of the amount of rotation achieved, you only need to rotate a small amount.
Encouraging thoracic mobility is important for maintenance of good shoulder mobility, something integral to any athlete. Normal thoracic-humeral rhythm is important for injury prevention. Thoracic mobility becomes increasingly important in athletic overhead activities. The higher an athlete raises their arm, the more thoracic motion is needed from the thoracic spine to maintain the proper relative shoulder alignment.
|Shoulder movement available with different thoracic spine positions|
Normal scapular and thoracic spine motion allows optimal mechanics for athletic shoulder motions (left). Increased thoracic kyphosis, reduced thoracic mobility, or scapular protraction caused by rounded shoulders and tight anterior muscles can contribute to shoulder impairment and injury (right). The rhythm between the thoracic spine, scapular and shoulder joint is fundamental to maintaining enough space in the joint to prevent impingement, a very common injury seen in overhead athletes with poor thoracic mobility.
Start working on freeing up that thoracic spine!