One of the most common effects of sitting for long periods of time (including working at the computer), is limited mobility and discomfort in the middle of your back - a part of your body also called the thoracic spine. Here, our Manotick physical therapists explain what kinds of passive and active physiotherapy treatments we prescribe to patients in order to restore their mobility.
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 section of your spine is not only the longest part of this critical body-part, it is also the most complicated. Your thoracic spine is made up of 12 vertebrae attached to your ribcage. It is responsible for much of your abdomen's mobility along 3 planes: rotation, extension and side flexion.
What Causes a Loss of Mobility in My Thoracic Spine?
Stiffness and the loss of mobility in your thoracic spine will often be caused by long periods of sedentary behaviour such as sitting for long periods of time. This may be in front of a computer, a television, or anything else that may cause you to sit for long periods of time 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 Manotick 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.
Physiotherapy for this issue could include passive treatments such as hot packs applies to the muscle of your or back or massage therapy to loosen up stiff muscles. Active treatments such as exercises or stretches prescribed by your physical therapist can help to restore mobility in cooperation with these passive treatments.
The following are some examples of exercises that we may prescribe to our patients at our physiotherapy centre if they are reporting reduced thoracic spine mobility:
Always wait for a physiotherapist's prescription for 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!
Beginning on all fours, ensure that your hands are beneath your shoulders and that your knees are beneath your hips.
To perform the cat pose, exhale and round your mid-back, lifting your ribs to the sky and allow your head and neck to relax.
In order to transition into cow pose, inhale and lift your head and chest forward while sinking your stomach down into the floor.
Transition from one of these poses to the other 10-15 times.
"Thread The Needle"
Starting on all fours, make sure that your hands are directly beneath your shoulder and that your knees are beneath your hips. As your exhale, reach one of your hands under the opposite arms as far through as your can, allowing your spine to rotate as you do.
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.