Sometimes my clients are puzzled when they tell me about pain or restricted mobility in their neck, shoulders, or low back, but then I start working on the problem by assessing their upper- and mid-back - the thoracic spine. I start there because restricted mobility in the thoracic spine is often the root cause.
If the thoracic spine is unable to properly flex, extend, side bend, and rotate, nearby joints are often forced to compensate. To fully assess and treat pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, or low back, I first ensure adequate mobility and strength in the thoracic spine. For people who do overhead weight lifting, thoracic spine problems may present as restricted neck and shoulder range of motion and low back pain from overextension.
To treat a problem in the thoracic spine, I use hands-on mobilization and I teach exercises to complement the mobilization that empower my clients to continue increasing strength and flexibility independently. If you're experiencing neck & shoulder stiffness or low back pain, schedule an appointment here and let's work on a solution! I'm eager to help you achieve the best mobility possible for excellent weight lifting form! Before we meet, here are some quick ways to check your thoracic spine mobility and make improvements on your own:
Check yourself - Left: overextended lumbar spine from an immobile thoracic spine (notice the ribs poking out). Middle: adequate thoracic extension allowing good stacking of neck and ribs inline with the hips. Right: the "Wall Angel" tests thoracic mobility. Head, hands, and full spine should touch wall. Ribs down. Inability to maintain all points of contact indicate a thoracic mobility issue. Now let's start on some mobility then some strength moves.
Lumbar Locked Rotation beginning and end positions: Try to rotate as far as you can and open the chest as much as possible. Try both sides 10-15 reps 2-3 sets.
Extension of thoracic spine over a foam roller: Hold these positions for 30 sec. or more.
Pallof Press: Use a stretchy band attached to an object, shoulder height, at your side. With the band tight, press hands forward and resist spine rotation during the movement back and forth.
Resisted lifts for thoracic rotation strength: Similar to exercise above, but band attached to side object at ground level, pull stretchy band up (like tossing object up towards opposite shoulder).
I hope you enjoy this post! I hope this helps with pain and dysfunction with overhead activity.