If you have lower back or neck pain, shoulder pain when lifting objects, or slumped shoulders when sitting or standing, you possibly have poor thoracic mobility. Although the upper back, or thoracic spine, receives less attention, it is the backbone for your lungs and heart, protected by your rib cage. 

Approximately 80% of Americans will have back pain at some time in their lives. Most individuals ascribe back discomfort to their low back or necks, while upper back troubles are frequently to blame. Thoracic mobility is the movement or motion available on this part of our body, highly vital for establishing excellent posture to avoid suffering from poor posture, and for most sports activities. And massage therapy can help remedy this problem!

What is the thoracic spine mobility?

The thoracic spine, which consists of 12 thoracic vertebrae and your rib cage, is the intermediate region of your vertebrae between your neck and lower back. The thoracic spine is designed for movement, allowing it to bend, extend, and rotate. Because the thoracic spine should be very mobile, it is possible to lose mobility by remaining immobile or by a lack of activity, frequently caused by the normal posture at an office or sedentary employment. 

The lumbar spine (lower back) is designed to be stable. The lumbar spine maintains the body’s weight and aids in preventing excessive rotation. The lumbar spine can move, bend, and stretch, but it would much rather stay stable and assist in the production of power from the hips.

Despite the possibility of mobility in the thoracic spine, the particular configuration of your upper back and rib cage does not allow for as much movement as you may assume. This is to protect your lungs and heart from damage caused by excessive motion in this area. Furthermore, the thoracic spine vertebrae interlock with one another and function as a strong stop during backbends—again, to protect your internal organs.

What happens when you have an immobile thoracic spine?

If the thoracic spine is immobile, the lumbar spine will pick up the slack and compensate for the thoracic spine’s lack of mobility, resulting in lower back pain. The shoulders and neck are located at the opposite end of the thoracic spine. A lack of mobility in the thoracic spine can lead to shoulder and neck disorders. A study supports the hypothesis that thoracic spine movement dysfunction is associated with diseases and neck, shoulder, and elbow pain.

What are some potential effects of thoracic spine mobility issues?

  • Posture A stiff thoracic spine enhances the natural rounded curvature while decreasing the capacity to extend (straighten up) and rotate. This causes the neck and head to tilt forward, which causes neck discomfort and headaches. A stiff thoracic spine enhances the natural rounded curvature while decreasing the capacity to extend (straighten up) and rotate. This causes the neck and head to sit forward (Poke neck posture), which is linked to neck discomfort and headaches.
  • Breathing Changes in breathing are one new area of study that has been connected to thoracic spine stiffness. Normal breathing necessitates the ribs to move like a bucket handle (they lift to the sides). The stiffer the rib joints are where they unite at the spine, the less mobility there is at this joint, making it more difficult to take a breath when higher breathing rates and volumes are necessary, potentially resulting in less air inhaled. This is exacerbated in cardiovascular sports that demand sitting or bending over, such as rowing, kayaking, or cycling.

Suffering from poor thoracic mobility? Give any one of our professionals at Massage Rx a call! To learn more about how we can help, check out our Youtube video! Also, we offer in-home massage therapy and our sought-after lymphatic drainage massage!