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The Downlow on the Upright Posture – Thoracic Spine

Last week I discussed the importance of upright posture with regards to the cervical spine, aka the neck. This week I am discussing the importance of the upright posture and the thoracic spine. To begin, the thoracic spine is the part of your back that is the foundation for the rib cage. The typical thoracic curvature is a kyphotic curve, which means it is a convex curve to the back. The most common abnormality of the posture of this part of the spine is called hyper kyphosis which means the curve is increased, like the hunchback of Notre Dame!

There are a lot of biomechanical issues that rear their nasty face when a hunch back is present. Listed below are some of the most common conditions:

1. Shoulder pain- this occurs because if you have an increase in hunching of the thoracic spine, which is the muscular joint for the shoulder blade, then your shoulder blades tend to sit protracted (forward), which significantly affects the centration (alignment) of the glenohumeral joint (shoulder). This leads to impingement of the rotator cuff and biceps tendon and weakening of the back muscles. Symptoms include grinding, popping, and pain. A common solution would be to sit up tall with shoulder blades retraction and depressed (together and down).

2. Back pain- in this hunched posture, pressure is placed on the front of the bones and disc and tensile strain is applied to the ligaments and muscles along the back of the spine. This tensile force alters fibers and leads to achiness and decreased activation of muscles. Put simply, the muscles in your chest become tight and weak and the muscles of your back become lengthened and weak. Not a great situation to be in if you are looking for a pain free life.

3. Breathing/core problems: Kyphotic or hunched posture leads to a decrease in the ability of taking in a deep breathe, which leads us to utilize the upper trapezius and scalene muscles of the neck to breath. This causes faulty breathing patterns, which then causes core instability. The diaphragm (muscle under the lungs that assists in expanding and relaxing the lungs) then is not able to stabilize the middle back, which then leads into more kyphosis and muscular imbalances!

I hope you are starting to get an appreciation for the intricate nature of how the human body is put together and operates. I also hope it opens your eyes to how complex some conditions of the musculoskeletal system can be and why a comprehensive and specific approach is most beneficial!

As always, reach out at any time with questions and ‘Do your stretches!’

Have a lovely week folks!

Cindy VanSickler, DC, CCSP, Cert. MDT

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