Thoracic Mobility Exercises

Do you have a stiff back?

Do you get headaches?

Unfortunately you're like many patients we treat at the clinic.  

Spinal postures play an important roll in neck, shoulder and lower back complaints.  I believe it is impractical for the majority of us to sit and stand in a perfect posture throughout the day.  Some of us may have skeletal abnormalities, others may have poor ergonomic work environments.  Are these people condemned to a lifetime of back complaints?  I certainly hope not!

I believe regular movement and distribution of postural loads is more practical than the old 'stand up straight' approach.  Please don't get me wrong, this post doesn't give you free reign to sling a heavy back on one shoulder and stoop your way around Melbourne without a care in the world.  What I am telling you is that short periods or poor postures aren't the end of the world.  Your natural posture should be a relaxed position for you and should be one that shifts shapes regularly.  

This regular movement is where many people go wrong.  When was the last time you spent some time to stretch your hamstrings or mobilise your spine?  I'm guessing it wasn't what you were doing before you read this post.  Many of my patients are avoidant to do these activities because they are uncomfortable and don't come with an immediate perceivable benefit.  It is unlikely that you'll notice any difference from one week to the next if you don't do any stretching.  What do you think would be the difference between today and 10 years time if you didn't do any stretching or mobility exercises at all!  

I'm often describing that window at on the side of your house that you never open.  After a few years it becomes difficult to unlock, it is sticky at you open it, and it doesn't quite open the whole way.  Now compare that with the window in your kitchen that you might open on a regular basis.  It might become a little loose in the hinges but it essentially operates the same way as the day it was built.  I believe this example correlates well with your own joints.  If you use your limbs through their full range, you will maintain that full range throughout your life and this will ultimately allow you to do the things you like to do for longer.

What Are The Benefits To A Mobile Spine?

Stiff Segments

If you have stiff areas in the spine but you still manage to touch your toes or can do a back bend.... where does that movement come from?  This 'extra' movement might be happening in joints that have an increased mobility such as the cervical (neck) spine.  By craning your neck forward and hyper-extending your upper neck, you are placing increased stresses on the joints and muscles of that region.  Common results of this include headaches, shoulder pain or restricted movement.

Stiff Tissues

Oxygen is essential to help promote proper function of muscle tissue.  This is transported throughout the body in the blood which is aided by movement.  If the tissue is maintained in a loaded posture without movement, it is reasonable to question the amount of circulation that might occur in that region.  Through movement oxygenated blood is flushed through the tissues and any metabolites that have built up in the area are encouraged back in to the circulation.  Massage can help to restore your tissues homeostasis (balance), but this can be a very expensive approach if it is your only method maintaining loose tissues. 

Painful Joints

Did you know that there are joints in your spine are lined with nerve endings?  When these joints rub on each other, these nerve endings are stimulated and can have a pain mediating effect.  This same phenomenon is seen when you rub your knee after banging it on a table.