|Before and After|
|Before and After|
The pictures above show the side view of the back before and after stretching. There is increased curvature at the base of the neck and the low back. After stretching, his neck and low back is in a better alignment. Also, there is an improved ability to raise the shoulder. This shows how tightness in the thoracic spine can influence other regions of the body.
While running, the arm swings backward causing a rotation to occur in the thoracic spine. Meanwhile, the same side leg swings forward. The twist of the spine helps to load the core, think of twisting a slinky. However, if the thoracic spine is stiff the low back takes the load. The most frequently injured and degenerated region of the spine is the L5 - S1 (lower back region). Not surprising, this is also the region of the lower back which has the ability to twist the most.
The thoracic spine supports the lower back, and its bony anatomy allows for rotational movement. However, if the area is stiff, motion is mainly absorbed in L5-S1 leading to overuse injury.
In running, a stiff thoracic spine contributes to injuries of the low back. The overly flexed thoracic spine can limit rib expansion, hinder breathing and limit loading to the core.
On top of using a foam roller or lacrosse balls to help loosen up the spine, there are stretches which help mobilize and utilize the muscles.
|Use a foam roller across the back between the shoulder blades|
and roll up and down for 2-3 mins
|Use a lacrosse ball in the front part of the |
chest and move side to side and up
and down for 2-3 minutes
Mobilizations of the Thoracic Spine
I like to follow up mobilizations with strengthening exercises to train the new motion. Please refer the the strength post for ideas on how to train the thoracic spine.
These mobilizations will not only enhance mobility for runners but is great for any athlete.
Thanks to Gary Gray at the Gray Institute for the remarkable knowledge.