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Improving Thoracic Spine (Mid-Back) Mobility

One of the most common impacts of sitting for long periods of time (such as for working at a computer), is discomfort and limited mobility in the mid-back, also called the thoracic spine. Here, our Nepean physiotherapists explain what kinds of active physiotherapy treatments we prescribe to patients in order to improve the mobility of their thoracic spine.

Reduced mobility and discomfort in the middle of the back is a common complaint amongst our patients who work at a computer all day or are sedentary for other reasons. Not only can reduced thoracic spine mobility be uncomfortable for people, it can also be a sign of growing injury and, if not addressed promptly, may become a greater issues 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 not only the longest portion of this all-important part of your body, it is also the most complex. Your thoracic spine is composed 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?

The loss of mobility, showing as stiffness, in your thoracic spine is often caused by long periods of sedentary behaviour, often by sitting for long periods of time. This can be in front of a computer, television or anything else that may cause you to sit for long periods in a day or over multiple days. 

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 Nepean physiotherapists are able to offer a number of different treatments for patients reporting stiffness and a lack of mobility in their thoracic spine. These treatments can include both passive and active physiotherapy methods. 

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 some examples of exercises that we may prescribe to our patients at Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre if they are reporting reduced thoracic spine mobility:

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!

"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.

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. 

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

Are you feeling discomfort or stiffness in your mid-back?

Our team of Nepean physiotherapists are here to help you recover.

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Welcome to the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre blog, where we provide lots of helpful tips, news, information and advice about physiotherapy and massage treatments, as well as general health and wellness, in Nepean and Ottawa.

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