Do you have neck pain or Shoulder problems? Then you may be suffering the consequences of a 'tight' thoracic spine. Any dysfunction here is broadcast up (and down) the kinetic chain and manifests itself in problems such as neck and shoulder pain.
So how does a 'tight' thoracic spine lead to shoulder and neck problems?
Well the thoracic spine should be able to rotate 35 degrees. If this is restricted and we try to rotate such as reaching for something across the body (or punching across the body for all of you combat buffs) then, chances are, you will still achieve the movement. But instead of the movement coming from where it should be (the thoracic spine) it will instead come from the shoulder. The shoulder moves more as a consequence which can reduce the stability of the joint. And an unstable joint is not a happy one. The body panics due to the instability and goes into protection mode where by it causes muscles around the joint to go into a protective spasm. This spasm may not be painful but you will know something is not right. Chances are that the muscles that are in spasm will include the upper traps which attach to the bottom of the skull. These muscles can then develop trigger points which can refer pain to the neck (and also give you the gift of headaches!)
If you haven't given much thought about your thoracic mobility then it's time to change that today using Thoracic Rotations. Start by simply keeping your pelvis still and rotating through the spine to your left and then your right focusing on each individual vertebrae. Repeat 10 times on each side. Repeat throughout the day as often as possible.
So how do Thoracic Rotations work? Let me explain further...
There was a study conducted whereby monkeys had two fingers sewn together so as to work as one unit. The result was that the brain started to process the two fingers as one body part and so would move the fingers as one.
A similar thing happens with the spine (or any other area or movement) when we neglect it. If we don't use it we lose it. We effectively forget how to move the way we should. As a consequence, the brain perceives the thoracic spine as one area and so moves it as one big block. We have, if you like, 'sewn together' the vertebrae within the mind.
This results in a reduced range of motion within the spine. And as always, if we reduce mobility in one area then another will have to compensate (as discussed above). Those areas that compensate tend to be the areas that suffer. And the areas that suffer are the areas that feel painful or 'tight'. And when they are painful or 'tight' that's the area that most people treat. BUT....those areas are not the cause of the problem. They are simply the symptom.
So when using Thoracic Rotations, although we may imagine ourselves breaking up any adhesions within the thoracic spine or 'ungluing' the area, a better explanation may be that we are simply reminding the brain to move the the areas separately as opposed to one big block. Give mobility to that area and the other areas won't need to compensate. Voilà!
Check out the Thoracic Rotations Video below...