Do you spend hours bent over a workstation? Does your job involve repetitive bending and heavy lifting? Do you, like so many of us in recent years, use a tablet, smart phone or laptop computer for hours every day?
If you answered yes to any of the above then it is very likely that you will have developed stiffness in your upper back. This ‘thoracic region’ is the largest part of our spine. It starts at the base of your neck and ends just above the lower back.
As a result of daily habits, like those described above, and poor posture, the thoracic spine is more likely to become stiff. This may not present as a major problem initially but it can have flow-on effects to the lower back, neck and shoulders.
The most immediate obvious effect of thoracic stiffness is in an increase in the natural curvature of your upper back and causes you to stand with “rounded shoulders”. This poor posture that we so often adopt as a result of laziness of our muscles eventually becomes permanent as the joints lose their ability to move back into a more upright position!
There are two wonderfully effective stretches that can help to increase thoracic spine mobility:
1) The open book stretch: Lay on your side as shown. Breathe in as you move your top arm across your body and turn your head and shoulders with it, keeping your knee firmly placed on the floor. Breathe out as you hold the stretch for around ten to fifteen seconds, then return to the start and repeat 10 times.
2) Extension over ball: Place a small inflatable ball on the floor – an exercise ball is best as it is quite squishy but a soft soccer ball will also do. Lay over the ball positioned between your shoulder blades. Make sure your head is supported on a pillow or a rolled up towel and your legs are bent. Stretch for 2 minutes with your arms overhead, breathing fully and relaxing into the stretch.
Post by Angus Tadman B. App. Sc (Phty) Hons Class I