My number one tip for preventing injury

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The thoracic spine (the mid back) is region of the spine to which the rib cage attaches. It is naturally the least mobile area of the spine, in order to protect the fragile organs contained within the thorax- namely the heart and lungs. However for the majority of the population, it is even less mobile than it should be. The primary reason for this is that we all spend far too much time sitting, particularly working on the computer. The consequence of this is that the we tend to sit with a flexed posture and rounded shoulders, and more importantly we sit immobilised, often for hours at a time. This causes the development of stiffness, and particularly a loss of both extension (backwards bending) and rotation (twisting). Human beings are very good at compensation, and as such this loss of movement results in excess strain being put on other joints of the body, having potentially detrimental effects on the rest of the body.

Loss of extension

Extension is the backward bending of the back, and is a direct result of the seated posture whilst working at a desk or driving. With this fixed flexed posture, the first compensation we make is in order to keep our eyes pointing forwards. With the upper part of the back pointing forwards, this pushes the head forwards. In order not to look at the floor, we then jut out our chins. The forward migration of the head causes an increase in strain on the neck and particularly on the discs. As the chin juts out, it puts a lot of strain on the muscles and joints at the base of the skull; this is a very common cause of headaches.

The loss of extension can also affect the lower back. A prime example of this is when we reach for something overhead. When you reach overhead, without the movement of the thoracic spine, you over extend the lower back, pushing the tummy out, in order to increase your reach. If this is done repeatedly, it causes a steady increase of strain on the lumbar spine, which can weaken it and make it susceptible to injury.

Loss of rotation

The loss of rotation is often a cause of injury in the peripheral joints (those outside of the spine) this is particularly common in athletes. There are countless examples of this, but to demonstrate, I am going to take you through a case.

Firstly lets look at the case of tennis player with a shoulder injury on his dominant side. The picture below shows Roger Federer’s forehand- one of the best technical players the game has ever seen. If you look at his shoulders in the first and then the second picture, you can see that through the shot, his shoulders turn-this generates a lot of the power of the shot. If we were to reduce the amount of rotation in his thoracic spine, he would subconsciously try to compensate for that loss of movement- and subsequent loss of power- by trying to move his arm faster and further. This means that the pectorals and rotator cuffs have to work harder, and more strain is put on the joints of the shoulders and elbows. This is the case for backhands and serves as well. Amateur and professional players will play thousands of shots in both practice and matches, and as such this increase in strain is repeated over and over again. As such, in the event of one of these injuries, you may be able to treat the injured muscles and joints, but without correcting that loss of thoracic movement, the injury will reoccur. 

To find out how we can treat and help prevent these injuries and many others, call us on 01225 862140 or pop into one of our clinics for a free chat with a chiropractor.