Osteopathy for the Thoracic Spine

Back pain can affect anyone from teenagers to the elderly. Commonly this is due to neuromuscular irritation, joint sprains, or trauma. If you’re a little bit older, then degenerative and inflammatory conditions can also play part in causing pain. Spondylosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are all common in this area of the spine.

Your mid to upper back (thoracic region) is a crucial link between your neck, shoulders, low back and hips to move and work together. It’s very common for someone who’s upper back is stiff to then later complain about neck or shoulder pain. A thoracic spine that functions well allows everything above and below to also function at their optimum.

The most common cause of thoracic back pain generally originates from muscles and joints that are put on too much stress or load, which leads to a pathological loss of movement. Therefore, one of the goals of treatment is to restore functional movement to your thoracic spine.

We always start out the same way with every patient, we take a detailed history and do a comprehensive orthopedic, neurological and functional assessment so that we get to know the problem and the patient. This makes selecting the right treatments much easier.

As you can see in the video above, we’re showing a snapshot of how we encourage more movement in the thoracic spine. The primary motion of this region is rotation, so techniques that improve rotation make for a great starting point to improve function; think improved golf swing, easier head-checks in the car or on the bike or easier breathing when you swim… All these activities rely on adequate thoracic rotation.

The second technique you’ll see here is a similar articulation technique aimed at improving extension range of movement. Thoracic extension is also functionally important as it is a good predictor of shoulder injury because of its role in setting the position of the shoulder blade. Especially important if you work or play sports that involve reaching overhead.

For more information, ideas and exercises check out our Health Tips blog.