The common reasons why you lose overhead mobility are deficits in the thoracic spine, shoulder, scapula and lumbo-pelvic area. In this post I will address the importance of proper thoracic spine mobility for over head motions.
Deficits in movement of the thoracic spine and ribcage area is a common problem most people face nowadays,
especially in people that have desk jobs, who’s posture is slouched. The relationship between the T-spine and ribcage lays the foundation for the scapula. Their alignment will dictate the function and movement of the scapula. In the image below you can see how positional faults in the T-spine, as it’s seen with increased rounding could yield to limited movement of the shoulder girdle. As we raise our arms overhead, the scapula is supposed to ride along the T-spine. If the position of the thoracic spine is not optimal, the shoulder blade wont be able to move how its supposed to.
Putting your arms over your head requires 160-170 degrees of motion from the shoulder, but this doesn’t get our arms completely over head. We achieve 180 degrees of motion with thoracic spine extension. The biggest issue comes when compensation from other segments occurs, as T-spine extension is lost, it leads to increased lumbar extension to compensate for this deficit, which increases the risk of low back injuries as well. In addition, we need proximal stability before distal mobility. This means that if the scapula is not sitting in a strong stabilizing position, this can also be a limiting factor for how much weight we can put over our head.
The point on mobilizing your spine is to help improve your efficiency with overhead lifts. Remember the shoulder only achieves 160-170 degrees of overhead flexion and in order to get that personal record lift you need the last 15 degrees to come from your T-spine.
DON’T simply go back and forth over your spine. The main goal is to real the spine over the roller and mobilize each segment. DO relax your spine at every single level along the T-spine, segmentally.
DON’T allow your hips to move along with your arms. DO maintain your core tight and hips aligned. Open to each side while taking a deep breath in. You should have 50 degrees of motion available on each side.
Foam roll vertical stretch
DON’T rush through the movement. DO lie on your back, with the foam roller along your spine, support your hips and head on the roll, stretch out your arms to the side and RELAX!
Standing overhead stretch
DON’T over extend your lower back DO start by bringing your arms overhead to a position where you feel restricted. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds at a time until you can no longer make any more gains.
Hope you find these tips helpful!
Stefanie Cohen, SPT