Today in our 2nd piece in our four-part series we are going to address a highly problematic area in general population which is thoracic spine mobility. If you lack the ability to rotate through your upper back, then you will create huge amounts of drag in the water and be incredibly inefficient.
However, before we move forward, if you have not read our introduction, please do so now here – https://bit.ly/3bmlf8M and our 1st part of the series on shoulder mobility here – https://bit.ly/3cGHmHp
Now that you are all caught up, we can move on and understand why T-Spine mobility is so important.
When the thoracic spine is operating optimally, it allows you to move in basically all directions. It’s built for mobility and movement, bending and twisting as well as flexion, extension, and rotation.
Trouble is, today’s sedentary lifestyle lends itself to reduced thoracic spine mobility. Like most things in the body, it’s a “use it or lose it” scenario. A lack of thoracic spine mobility means that the lumbar spine, pelvis, shoulders and surrounding muscles all compensate to allow you to move how you want to move. Long term, those compensations can lead to injury and feed to problems upstream such as shoulder impingements or downstream toward the lumbar spine.
If you’re lacking thoracic spine mobility, the injury risk for the lumbar spine—the part of your spine in your low-back—is especially high. The lumbar spine is meant to keep us stable and is not meant to move much at all. As a result, when these joints that aren’t meant to be mobile, are forced to be mobile, it places a ton of pressure on the discs in your lower back. The possible consequences of which are many, inflammation, degeneration, or herniation of the discs, generalized low-back pain, compression fractures, muscles spasms, and spinal nerve injuries are just a few.
However, the main risk for swimmers who lack T-spine mobility and have to do an overhead movement, i.e. swimming, forces the shoulder to compensate for the lack of movement in the upper back and this will inevitably lead to shoulder impingements.
At risk of sounding alarmist, if you work a desk 9-to-5, there’s a very good chance your thoracic spine mobility could use improvement. But even if you don’t, think about all that time you spend sitting, slumped over a screen, watching Netflix, or sitting in the car or looking down at a screen.
However, like the old Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now. While winding the clock back would be great, we can make a significant improvement with some due diligence and prehab exercises.
Here is my top 3. Perform this daily if possible.
Next up on our series we will address our core, why its so important for simmers and how we can train effectively to help us in the water.
As always, if you have any issues with the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Brendan, at [email protected].