Protecting Your Upper Back, Neck, and Shoulders

Have you ever felt neck, shoulder, or lower back pain but don’t remember getting injured? The pain may from decreased mobility in the thoracic spine.

What is the thoracic spine?

The thoracic spine, also known as the upper and midback, is made up of 12 vertebra, and your rib cage. It’s responsible for bending forward and backward and rotation.

What causes decreased mobility?

Sitting for long spans of time with poor posture can have detrimental impacts. Often times, people tend to sit with their shoulders rounded and a forward head posture because it’s comfortable. Overtime, this can make the thoracic spine tight which will likely result in pain.

Decreased thoracic mobility and neck pain

We know that irregular posture increases stress on muscles, ligaments, bones, and joints. If the upper thoracic spine is tight, it can cause a change in head positioning which adds next strain which can result in headaches and pain. So if you’re experiencing neck pain, mobilizing the thoracic spine decrease discomfort.

Quick experiment

As you are reading this section, sit with your shoulders rounded forward. Now, try to elevate your arms in front of you. Your range of motion should be restricted if you remain slouched.

Now, sit-up straight.

Retract and depress your scapulae (shoulder blades) and elevate your arms. If you have no pre-existing shoulder injuries, you should be able to elevate your arm through the full range of motion without pain.

Lower back pain

Often, people with decreased mobility in their thoracic spine compensate using their lumbar spine during flexion, extension, and rotation. The lumbar spine is built for stability while the thoracic spine is designed for mobility. The decrease in thoracic mobility allows for the lumbar spine to move more than it is designed to. The lumbar spine is meant to resist excessive rotation.

As a result of this increased movement, some experience lower back pain.

So what do you do?

Check your posture throughout your day. And if that isn’t enough? Talk to your trainer at your next session to see what else you can do.