The 12 thoracic vertebrae of your middle back are extremely important for sustaining a neutral position. Everyone has heard how important “the core” is to human movement (that’s usually thought of as the bottom of the ribcage to mid-thigh or so). If your thoracic spine (t-spine) is tight and out of whack all the power that you’d like to have flowing from your six-pack and glutes is going to get cut off. A tight thoracic spine gums up your posterior chain, and you can’t stabilize your shoulders and head in a good position, which transmit strain into your neck and lower back. It also throws off your hip function, which transfers stress to your knees, ankles and feet.
A Tight Thoracic Spine
The human body is a system of systems, so dysfunctions broadcast up and down the kinetic chain and manifests itself in problems through the body.
Your head weighs about 12 pounds on its own and every inch it moves forward effectively adds another 10 pounds of weight. So it’s no wonder your neck hurts from trying to hold up your head.
When your shoulder joints are in a neutral, externally rotated position, you get the benefit of stored-up energy from rotational torque. Check your shoulders, if they are rolled forward, you are giving up all this torque. Your soft tissues have a lot more stress put on them, and they have to stabilize the shoulder joints.
A tight, hunched thoracic spine shunts down the flow of power within the body’s systems. This places more stress on the lower back during movement.
Without a neutral spine, stress on the knees increases. This leads to poor hip function, which results in a lot of stress on the knee joint.
Your hips and shoulders are your two primary sorces of power. Their ability to create torque (rotational force) is essential to stability. If your t-spine is tight you will not be able to produce power. Lack of stability will place added stress on the body, resulting in compensations and eventually pain.
From now on brace your spine at all times! Also keep your feet neutral (pointed straight a head), you are not a duck or a pigeon!
- Squeeze your butt, activating your glutes. This will put your pelvis in a neutral position.
- Tighten your abs
- Set your head in a neutral position and pull your shoulders back into external rotation.
- Keep everything in place (keep only about 20 percent tension).
Be patient, don't be discouraged. If you're spending hours a day in a chair, your tissues have adapted to that position, which doesn't allow for powerful function. Your body has an elastic quality, and it can change. Just know that it's not going to happen overnight. Commit yourself to the program for the long haul.
If you are located in Westchester NY, take advantage of a FREE fitness assessment during the month of January. I will show you where you are, help you set realistic goals and show you the best way to achieve your goals, safely and effectively. As your personal trainer, your goals are my goals!