How to Improve Your Spine Mobility?– SAPNA Pain Management

  1. Importance of Maintaining Mobility
  2. What is a Locked Back?
  3. What Causes Loss of Thoracic Spine Mobility?
  4. How to Release a Locked Back
  5. Taking Care of Your Spine is a Priority

The middle
section of the spine is called the thoracic spine and with 12 vertebrae
(bones), it is the longest spinal section. It extends from the lower section of
the neck to right below the ribs. Functionally rigid, thoracic spine mobility
is sometimes limited due to things like sitting for long
periods at your desk. Keeping the thoracic spine as mobile as possible is
important to your body’s movement and to avoiding the development of other
muscle and joint issues as the body compensates for the lack of spinal

Anatomy of the Neck

Importance of Maintaining Mobility in the Thoracic Spine

  • Helps with torso rotation
  • Supports the abdomen and chest
  • Contributes to rib cage
    stabilization as a point of attachment for rib bones
  • Provides a point of attachment for
    some muscles
  • Helps protect the heart and lungs
  • Protects the spinal cord
  • Helps support breathing

thoracic spine motions include extension, flexion, side bending and rotation.
However, the thoracic spine does not have full mobility because its main
purpose is to provide stability. The cervical and lumbar spinal sections have
more mobility.

What is a Locked Back?

thoracic spine can experience some of the same issues as the other sections of
the spine. They include disc herniation, injury, arthritis and other diseases. Often though,
the issue is loss of mobility because of things like lifestyle and posture.

The back
locks up, making movement stiff and sometimes painful. In fact, a locked back
can cause shoulder and neck muscle and joint pain because the spine and torso
cannot move normally. This leads to a tendency to overcompensate the
spine by adjusting movement in these other areas and making them work harder.

A locked
back usually refers to the loss of flexion in the thoracic spine. Flexion is
the bending movement that decreases an angle between body parts, in this case,
the bones in the spinal column. The extension is the opposite movement of flexion.
Lateral flexion in the spine refers to the bending movement of the body left or
right. Rotation of the vertebral column is the twisting motion in which one
bone rotates in relation to a different bone. The extension is the opposite movement of flexion.

thoracic spine is designed to have limited mobility so that it is always
protecting vital organs but allows for chest movement during breathing. It also
prevents flexion on the lungs and heart. The back has ligaments connecting the
ribs and muscles arranged in layers, including a deep layer attached to the spine.

When the
back locks up, the muscles and ligaments are stiff and limit movement of the
part of the spine that is already naturally limited in mobility.

What Causes Loss of Thoracic Spine Mobility?

Some of the
reasons people lose thoracic spine mobility include the following.

  • Sitting too long in one position
    with the back and neck rounded and arms extended, like at a desk
  • Doing movements that require
    frequent forward bending which rounds the thoracic spine
  • Overuse of deep muscles that limit
    rotation, flexion and extension

When you
have a decreased ability to rotate the body and have increased thoracic spine
rounding (called kyphosis), you can experience a variety of symptoms. Most are
related to how your body compensates for the locked back

  • Difficulty rotating the torso and
    bending forward, back and side-to-side
  • Pain in the muscles and joints
  • Forward head position leads to headaches
  • Rounded shoulders decrease shoulder
    blade movement which can lead to pinching in the shoulder joint when the arms
    are lifted
  • Increased arch develops in the lower
    back leading to low back pain
  • Potential for increased injury in
    the compensating joints and muscles

How to Release a Locked Back?

There are
thoracic spine exercises and stretches you can do to loosen up your back. They include exercises like the following.

Cat cow pose

On your
hands and knees, curve your torso down and then curve the back up.

Gym ball stretch

stretch on your back on a gym ball.

Thread the Needle

While on
your hands and knees, take one arm and stretch it under the other arm.

Spinal rotations

Twist at
the waist from side to side.

Rotation with a lunge

Get on your
hands and knees and then place one bent leg in front so your foot is flat on
the ground while the other leg remains on the knee; raise the arm that is on
the same side as the bent leg towards the sky and then swing it back behind the
arm on the ground and repeat.

Mid-back mobility stretch

Lying on
your side, prop one leg on a foam roller at 90 degrees while keeping the other
leg straight, and rotate one arm from one side to another.

Doing yoga
is a good way to learn a variety of thoracic spine stretches while increasing
flexibility in the whole body. The exercises specifically for the thoracic
spine focus on stability and mobility in the thoracic spine. There are also
thoracic back pain exercises like kneeling rotations and the rolled towel extension.

Taking Care of Your Spine is a Priority

You can
learn how to self adjust the thoracic spine, but it is important to learn how
to correctly do the exercises. Your pain management doctor can suggest the best exercises, and
a physical therapist can demonstrate the correct form. Spinal mobility
exercises can be done at home and are not difficult to do. The key is to
consistently do the exercises and not quit too soon.



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