How Breathing Affects Your Thoracic Spine
Hi, Mark at Fitness 4 Life coming to you live on tape. What I want to talk about this month is the importance of breathing when it comes to the thoracic spine rib cage area. Your thoracic spine is basically the middle back starting approximately here, coming down to approximately here. The thoracic spine is what the ribs are attached to, so it’s protective. The ribs help to protect the internal organs, but what a lot of people don’t realize, your thoracic spine is designed to move also. A lot of people lose mobility in the thoracic spine, which lends itself to all kinds of problem for the neck, to shoulder problem, to breathing problems, to postural problems where you got the hump in the back, or your head is forward.
Some of the causes of this are shallow breathing because you’ve got muscles that are attached at the neck and then attach to your first and second rib. If you’re shallow breathing, and you’re constantly working these muscles, and you’re just getting the upper chest to move up and down, then these muscles get overworked. This results in pain, tightness in the neck, and that’s simply because you not breathing correctly. These muscles start getting tight, then they can start pulling your head forward. They can start increasing the curve in your upper back, so then you start standing like this. I wish I would’ve known this 78 year ago, but I’m still working on it now.
You have to have mobility in the thoracic spine. You have to learn to breathe through your nose, inhaling and exhaling because you want to take air all the way down into your diaphragm. You want to see all of your chest cavity slightly expand and contract like a balloon. If you’re breathing incorrectly, you can put your hand on your chest and as you’re breathing, you may notice you are taking much more shallow breaths. Your hand is going to rise and fall slightly. When you’re breathing correctly, air goes into the nose, and out through the nose. It’s what it’s designed for. You should breathe light. You should breathe deep and make sure that you pull enough air in that you feel it moving down here, enough air that when you exhale that it’s like deflating a balloon here. That can help mobilize and work the spine because your ribs actually move also. They’re like bucket handles. When you take air in, they rise and fall slightly. If you’re not working that correctly, like we’ve said, other areas take a hit.
Two take home messages today: One is start learning as much as possible to breathe in and out through your nose, light breaths but all the way down into your lower abdomen. Part two is you want to maintain and work on thoracic mobility. When you’re sitting, your thoracic spine bends back approximately 25 degrees. It bends forward approximately 30 degrees. It bends to the side about 25 degrees, but it rotates about 50 degrees. A lot of the rotation is what we lose, so in our next series of videos we’re going to show you three different ways to help to mobilize and get some mobility back in your thoracic spine. If you have further questions, contact us at Fitness4LifePT.com.