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Improving Thoracic Spine (Mid-Back) Mobility

Posted Jan 31st, 2022

One of the most common health results of sitting for long periods of time (such as when working at a computer) is limited mobility and discomfort in your mid-back, or thoracic spine. Here, our Stittsville physical therapists explain what kinds of active physiotherapy treatments we prescribe to our patients to help improve the mobility of their thoracic spine.

Discomfort in the middle of the back and reduced mobility is commonly reported by our patients who are sedentary or work at a desk all day. Not only can reduction to your thoracic spinal mobility be uncomfortable, it can also be the signs of a growing injury and, if not promptly addressed, may become a more serious issue down the road.

What Is the Thoracic Spine?

Your spine is divided into 3 sections, the cervical, thoracic and lumbar. In order these describe your neck, mid-back and lower back. 

The thoracic portion of your spine is the longest part of this all-important piece of your body. It is also the most complex. Your thoracic spine is made up of 12 vertebrae and is attached to your ribcage. It is responsible for much of your abdomen's mobility in three planes: rotation, extension or flexion and side flexion. 

What Causes a Loss of Mobility in My Thoracic Spine?

Losing mobility in your mid-back will often show as stiffness. This is often caused by long periods of sedentary behaviour such as sitting down. This may be ni front of a computer, a television, or anything else that may demand large amounts of time over a day or more. 

While lifestyle and careers demands may mean that we don't have a choice in how much sedentary time we spend in a day, there are a number of ways to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on your thoracic spine mobility. 

Exercises to Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

Our team of Stittsville physiotherapists are able to offer a variety of treatments for patients who are reporting stiffness and a lack of mobility in their thoracic spine. These treatments may include both passive and active physical therapies. 

Passive physiotherapy for this issue could include hot packs applied to the muscles of your back as well as massage therapy to help loosen tight or stiff muscle groups. Active physiotherapy treatments are activities or exercises prescribed by our physical therapists to help restore mobility. 

The following are a few examples of the exercises that we may prescribe to our patients if they are reporting reduced mobility in their mid-back.

Always way for a physiotherapists' prescription fo an exercise before engaging injured, pained, or stiff muscles. If you attempt exercises or activities without consulting your physiotherapist, you may cause yourself further injury and pain!

Cat-Cow Pose

Starting on all fours, make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and that your knees are beneath your hips. 

To perform the cat pase, exhale and round your mid-back, lifting your ribs to the sky and allow your head and neck to relax.

To transition to cow pose, inhale and lift your head and chest forward while sinking your stomach to the floor. 

"Thread The Needle"

Begin on all fours, ensuring that your hands are directly beneath your shoulder and your knees are under your hips. As you exhale, reach one of your hands under the opposite arm as far as possible, allowing your thoracic spine to rotate as you do so. From there, inhale and rotate to the opposite side, bringing your arm up vertical and opening your chest. 

Repeat this exercise 10-15 times, alternating which arm you rotate. 

Foam Roller Thoracic Extensions

Place a foam roller beneath your back at the level of your mid-back. arch through your mid-back and gradually move the roller from the top to the bottom of your scapula in order to target different parts of your spine. 

Repeat this exercise 5 times.

Transition from one of these poses to the other 10-15 times.

Are you experiencing limited mobility or pain in your mid-back?

Our team of specially trained physiotherapists are here to help you recover.

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