Thoracic Mobility from Dr. Brent Anderson/Polestar Education

Mobility of the Thoracic Spine
Brent Anderson PhD, DPT, OCS

We often talk about finding the mechanism of the pathology in our patients and clients.  When it comes to such pathologies as cervical and lumbar spine and shoulder, the thoracic spine is often ignored.  Sometimes very simple assessment of the mobility of the thoracic spine and related rib movements can significantly reduce symptoms of common pathologies of the cervical spine, lumbar spine and/or shoulder complex. 

If a client presents with impaired mobility and coordination of the thoracic spine and rib cage; it can manifest in limitations of scapular mobility leading to impingement injuries like rotator cuff tendinitis and even tears.  Therefore, when we restore the mobility and teach our clients to integrate scapular rhythms, the stress to the rotator cuff and other shoulder structures decreases dramatically.  A lack of thoracic mobility can also lead to instability in the shoulder complex, secondary to excessive movement and forces having to pass through the glenohumeral joint instead of being distributed into the thorax through the scapula and clavicle. 

Thoracic hypomobility can also be the cause of (or lead to) excessive movement of the lumbar and/or cervical segments often resulting in disk disease, degenerative diseases and even surgery.  Simply changing the strategy to move from a few more spinal segments can reduce the irritating force that perpetuates the injury.

The take home message is that “Distribution of Movement Equals Distribution of Force”.  This reminds us of Polestar’s Principles of Movement where we want to establish axial elongation and spine articulation to improve the arthrokinematics of the joints and decrease harmful forces that limit our performance.

Wishing you improvement through movement!

Dr. Brent

September 21, 2010 · Monica Dawson · Comments Closed
Posted in: Injury Prevention