Where is it? The Thoracic Spine is at the mid to upper region of our back where most of our ribs attach. This portion of the spine can often become stiff and sometimes lose mobility if we are not moving a little bit every day, or if we are sustaining a poor posture while sitting for too long. Stiffness and limited mobility may result in increased discomfort or pain, ultimately leading to even less body movement. Sometimes thoracic spine stiffness can even lead to other pain in the body, including the shoulders, low back, and neck. While being at home, we may not be moving as much as we typically would especially if we are busy at the computer working or even binging the newest Netflix show. This can create stiffness and pains we did not have before and ultimately may reduce our general health.
So, what can we do to help reduce the risk of thoracic pain and stiffness while remaining at home? Listed below are 3 simple exercises to remain mobile and limit any onset of pain.
- Thoracic extension: Sit in a chair with a supportive back. Using an object of cylindrical shape, place in the mid region of spine, below the shoulder blades. Interlace your fingers and place them behind your head. Lean backward while thinking about rounding the spine around the cylinder object. Complete 10 repetitions for 2 sets. Hold eat repetition for 5 seconds.
- Open book stretch: Laying on your side, use one pillow under your head and one pillow between your knees. Then, extend both arms outward in front of you, palms facing each other. While keeping the core engaged and limiting low back rotation, rotate the upper arm up and into an arch motion, as if a book was opening. Hold for 5 seconds. To improve rotation, follow your thumb with your eyes and head. Repeat exercise for 10 repetitions, performing on both sides.
- Seated side bends: While sitting in a firm chair, place both at your side, elbows bent. With one arm, reach up and over your head to the opposite side. Gently reach with hand, as if you are trying to grab something. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, then complete on the opposite side.
In addition to these simple exercises, ask your physical therapist about skilled manual techniques that can be used in the clinic to help improve your thoracic mobility, therefore improving posture and reducing possible stiffness and pain. Remember, in addition to these exercises, look at our previous blog on posture to help limit increases in thoracic stiffness.
Written by: Rachel Balluch, PT, DPT