If you read our previous blog post on posture, you’ll remember we mentioned that about half of the population have an excessively flat thoracic spine or upper back while the other half have an excessively rounded thoracic spine. If you DIDN’T fall into the “excessively flat” category, this blog is for you and will teach you exactly how to fix that rounded, hunchback-like posture!
While a normal thoracic spine SHOULD have some curvature to it, an excessive amount can be detrimental! Your thoracic spine is the foundation for your neck and shoulders. If your thoracic spine can’t move well or is in a less than ideal position, there’s limited possibility of your shoulder blades and neck moving properly which could potentially lead to pain.
As you can see from the graphics below, this excessive curvature can lead to extreme forward head posture so that the muscles responsible for holding the head and neck in a good position become strained and/or overworked from trying to maintain a position that they just can’t handle. Excessive curvature of the thoracic spine can also cause your shoulder blades to sit in a poor position making overhead activities difficult and potentially even painful so that the muscles in and around the shoulder joint get beat up from trying to compensate.
1. Weighted Thoracic Extension
Place your upper back on a bench and while keeping the hips low to the ground, extend the weight over your head. Hold for 2-3 seconds and repeat 10x.
Extension (arching backward) is probably one of the most popular directions that we see people work on. While extension is needed and important, we can’t negate the benefits of rotational exercises on mobility of the thoracic spine. The anatomy of these joints are made to move more readily into rotation than extension, so the rotational exercises coupled with extension exercises will actually give you greater results!
2. Half Kneeling Thoracic Wall Circles
Kneel close to a wall with your outer knee up. Perform a big circle with the outer arm and try to stay in contact with the wall throughout the range. Perform 10-12 reps per side.
Now that we’ve mobilized the thoracic spine, to create lasting changes, we must strengthen! This exercise below activates and strengthens the important postural muscles in the upper back while also improving the position of your shoulder blades.
3. Wall Angels
Lean up against a wall and press your lower back flat. With both arms bent to 90 degrees and the pinky side of your hands on the wall, raise your arms up as high as you can until you feel a restriction. At that highest point, slide your pinkies up and down as fast as you can. Shoot for 1 minute!
Lastly, reel in that forward head posture by performing chin tucks and strengthening the muscles in the front of the neck.
4. Chin Tucks
Lie flat with a pillow under your head. Think about having an axis through your ears and gently nod your head around that axis, bringing your chin closer to your throat. Keep the head on the pillow at all times and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat for 5 minutes.
Perform the 4 exercises above, 2x per day, over the next 2 weeks and you’ll notice a dramatic difference. Not only will your posture improve, but your neck and shoulders will feel and perform better as well. With that being said, you have to start now! Posture becomes much more difficult to improve the longer you put it off.
Thanks for reading!
– Dr. Aerial