“My low back hurts! Why are you messing with my hips and mid back?” That’s a great question! Low back pain can’t just be lumped together in a simple category. Two people may both have low back pain, but they can each have a different cause of low back pain. For example, two people may be coughing. One could be coughing because he choked on some food while the other could be coughing because of a cold. You shouldn’t go offer both cough medicine because of their presentation; they have different causes!
This week we will be looking at how to do some at home mobility work for your thoracic spine (mid-back). Next week we will continue by looking at your hips. Sitting all the time at a computer/desk job can leave us with hyper-kyphotic (hunch back) posture. Sitting can also lead to tight hip flexors and lack of movement in your hips and pelvis. The idea is that if your hips and thoracic spine can’t move the way they are supposed to, your lumbar spine (low back) will try to compensate and do the work for them. That means that your low back is working over-time!
When looking at mobility for your thoracic spine, you can always consult our older blog post on exercises/stretches for better posture. We also have some new mobility drills for you to work on.
Basic Foam Rolling
This is a good way to warm up and do a broad sweep of mobilizing your spine. When foam rolling, I like to start just above the curve in my low back and roll up to the base of my neck. I often like to have my arms crossed across my chest like I’m giving myself a big hug. (Why not hug yourself! Show your body some love!) I feel this is nice in the area between my shoulder blades. You can also use your hands to support your head if your neck starts to get sore holding up your head. (It’s hard being smart and having such a heavy brain.) Do this for a minute or so, and then move on to the other stretches.
Double Tennis Ball
Grab two tennis balls, and use athletic tape or a wide enough tape to attach the two balls together. These are going to allow you to really work out the muscles on either side of your spine. Check out the picture below to get an idea of how the double tennis ball will cradle your spine while massaging the muscles.
Lay on the tennis balls where the divot between the tennis balls aligns with the spinous process (the sticky outty part of your spine that you can feel on your back). From there just relax on top of the ball and then crunch up a little. Think of bending your back around the balls. Then move the tennis balls up your spine and repeat. Some spots may be a little more tender than others. Feel free to hang out in those spots for a little while. Focus on your breathing and trying to relax, and the sore spots in your muscles will hopefully do the same.
Quadruped Rotational Drill
This drill can be done in two positions. You can either be on your hands and knees or go back to a position where you are sitting on your heels. For some people, the hands and knees positioning is more comfortable, especially if they lack the mobility to get in to the position where they are sitting on their heels. Once you are in position, place one hand on the back of your head, and work on rotating from the ground then looking up towards the sky. When doing the rotational movements, think of making all the movement come from your mid-back. Keep your low back, hips, and pelvis all stationary. The kneeling position can allow for a bit easier isolation of the thoracic spine movement. Do 5 rotational reps on each side and repeat 1-2 times. Each set try to rotate a bit further.
Questions? Hopefully these drills will help with your thoracic mobility. We can also always go through them during your next appointment. Don't have a next appointment yet? Call us today to set one up!