Sometimes we get too caught up in looking at the shoulder itself only and we forget what’s happening around and further down the chain. We all know that soft-tissue work, internal rotation ROM, scapular stability and flexibility are all important factors in shoulder health. But in my experience, the thoracic spine is by far the most overlooked aspect of shoulder health. It usually affects everything around. If you take the joint-by-joint approach to training, one general take-away you can get is that a lack of mobility at one joint (or lack of stability, if we’re considering a stable joint) will generally affect it’s neighbor joint (i.e. the one closer up or down the chain) in an unfavorable way.
Using this approach, every joint has a neighbor up the chain and one neighbor down the chain (e.g. the hip joint is connected with the lumbar region above it and the knee below it). When taking the thoracic spine and taking this approach one step further, we realize that the t-spine, as opposed to most other joints, has 4 neighbors instead of just 2. In fact, the t-spine is directly linked to:
- the lumbar region
- the cervical region
- the scapula (and the clavicle)
- the ribcage
Because of this, the implication of the thoracic spine are major ones, as it can affect scapular positioning and stability, gleno-humeral positioning and range of motion, breathing pattern, lumbar stability and neck function. And guess what? all of these things affect your shoulder’s function and health in general!
A lot of people will benefit greatly from t-spine mobility drills to improve extension and rotation ROM, especially people with kyphotic posture because they are stuck in thoracic flexion and it will affect the whole shoulder position and how the humeral head sits in the glenoid fossa.
Many times just incorporating t-spine mobility drills will greatly improve your shoulder function and health. I’ve seen this happen on multiple occasion with someone with shoulder pain, where incorporating a couple t-spine mobility drills in his program got rid of his pain in a matter of 1-2 weeks.
Here are 2 of my favorites:
Seated T-Spine Rotation:
Prayer Position T-Spine Rotation
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