For as long as most of us can remember, we’ve been told by our parents to sit up straight and keep good posture. Whether or not that advice has been followed will differ from person to person, but sooner or later we should all come to see that our parents were right: good posture is extremely important. When your spine is correctly aligned—which is the result of great posture over time—it allows the rest of the body to function more effectively and efficiently. But improper spinal alignment, on the other hand, can throw many parts of your upper body out of whack. Below, our New York City physical therapists explain how this can happen and what we can do to help.
The spine is divided into three sections: the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions. The thoracic spine refers to the upper and middle back, which connects the cervical spine of the neck and extends down about five inches past the bottom of the shoulder, where it connects to the lumbar region of the lower back. This section of the spine is made up of 12 vertebrae (spinal bones), which is more than the cervical (7) and lumbar (5) regions.
The thoracic spine also has a significantly different purpose that the other parts: while the cervical spine is built for flexibility and the lumbar spine is build for power and flexibility, the thoracic is built for stability. This stability plays an important part in holding the body upright and providing protection to the vital organs in the chest. Having a stable thoracic spine is also a huge part of developing and maintaining function throughout the rest of the body.
It’s for this reason that problems with the thoracic spine can influence other body regions. A healthy spine is one that is properly aligned, but there are several forces that can throw it out of alignment and cause dysfunction. The thoracic spine can fall out alignment from having bad posture for a long period of time, exercising too hard for too long, or not getting enough physical activity. It can even be knocked out of alignment from an extreme force such as a fall, and when this occurs, it can lead to pain, headaches, impaired posture, dysfunctional breathing, a decrease in athletic performance and possibly other injuries. Together, this can cause additional weakness and inactivity, making it even more difficult to recover.
How our New York City physical therapists can address thoracic dysfunction
Fortunately, even though this sounds like a daunting injury, our New York City physical therapists have a plan to address it. Treatment programs for thoracic alignment dysfunction tend to be quite comprehensive since so many areas are involved, and a typical program will include the following components:
- Posture reeducation exercises: since posture is one of the main issues involved, there will be a major focus on restoring and maintaining good posture
- Strengthening exercises: building back strength in areas that have become weak from the injury—like the hips and core—is also crucial
- Breathing exercises: these types of exercises, such as diaphragm self-release, are designed to bring back normal breathing patterns
- Manual therapy: hands-on therapy performed by the therapist for muscles in the ribs and any other muscles that are shortened or overactive will help to improve their function
So if you’re dealing with any issues that may be related to your thoracic spine, or any other lingering pain, for that matter, our New York City physical therapists are here to help. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on the anatomy of the thoracic spine.