Disclaimer: Please be aware that information in this article is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding an injury or medical condition.
Written by: Emilie Smale, Certified Athletic Therapist
Are you constantly feeling like you have a tight feeling in your upper back or ‘knots’ around your shoulder blades? Stagnation in your thoracic spine, or t-spine, may be what is causing these problems. Stagnation, or rather, lack of mobility is best combated with movement rather than static stretching or massage.
We’ll start off with what the T-spine is; the T-spine is the part of the spine that is categorized as the upper back. Located underneath the neck and above the lumbar spine (low back). It is comprised of 12 vertebrae. The t-spine is meant for movements in many directions, compared to the low back which is designed for stability rather than mobility.
Decreased movement abilities in the upper back can lead to the neck, shoulder, low back, pelvis, and surrounding muscles to compensate for the lack of movement. This will eventually lead to injury such as a shoulder impingement or imbalances throughout the lower body.
A great way to demonstrate how t-spine mobility and shoulder performance are linked is by sitting and slouching throughout your upper back. From this position try lifting your arms straight up. Now, try sitting with a nice straight posture and try the same movement with your shoulders. See the improvement?
Wondering if you have decreased t-spine mobility and could benefit from mobility and strengthening exercises? Stand by a full-length mirror and look at your body from the side. Is your upper to middle back overly rounded? If so, try some of these mobility exercises shown below.
T-Spine Foam Roller Extensions
This exercise will help stretch out the chest and back muscles, relieve muscular tension, and improve thoracic mobility. Place the foam roller under your upper back and lift your arms up and back. Extend your thoracic spine back over the foam roller and roll slowly up and down the vertebrae, pausing on any stiff or sore parts. Do not roll the neck or lower back, focus solely on the t-spine.
Thread the Needle
Begin on all fours, reach one arm underneath your body to the opposite side. You should feel a nice stretch along your upper back, hold this pose and breath deeply for about 5 seconds. Next, rotate all the way back through and reach high with that same arm. Repeat on the other side.
If you think your t-spine mobility is causing pain and imbalances, contact an Athletic Therapist for an assessment!
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Team Insahyu: Certified Athletic Therapists.