With more of us hunching over keyboards at makeshift desks at home, and not having as much day-to-day movement as we usually would, it’s little wonder aches and pains can occur.
But, it’s not always the lower back or the neck that’s to blame – could the thoracic spine actually be the root of the issue?
Sitting at a desk all day can cause the mobility (or movement) in this area to stiffen over time – especially if we don’t take steps to keep it mobile doing sedentary periods.
“It’s one of the less flexible parts of the spine, when compared to your neck and lower back, which means it can easily become stiff and the tension there becomes hard to relieve,
When it comes to back strength and flexibility in the thoracic spine it’s often a case of ‘use it or lose it’.
When your upper back becomes tight, a dull ache between the shoulder blades is one of the most obvious symptoms.
“A stiff thoracic spine feels uncomfortable and heavy, causing minor aches to excruciating agony.
As thoracic spine stiffness often extends as far as your shoulder blades, shoulders and neck, struggling to lift your arms above your head is a key sign that you’re experiencing a lack of mobility in the area.
“Your body may feel very uncomfortable when lying on your back, causing you to lie on your side
How can people improve their thoracic spine health?
“Move, stretch, mobilise,
Get up, move around, get walking, get exercising, and start using your back more.
“Maintain good posture, reduce forward bending, and take the pressure off your back. It’s also a good idea to eat a balanced diet, get outside when the sun is shining to top up your vitamin D levels, and drink plenty of water.”
There are many stretches you can try to help relieve upper back tension too. Try these three on your next screen break…
1. Cat cow
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. As you inhale, lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling, drawing the shoulders away from your ear. As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. Repeat 10 times.
2. Thoracic rotation
Begin on your hands and knees. Place one hand behind your head, so your elbow is extended at shoulder height.
Slowly rotate your upper body so your elbow is pointing towards the ceiling. Hold the rotation for a couple of seconds and then rotate your elbow back towards the floor. Repeat 10 times.
2. Prayer stretch
Take a kneeling position close to a chair. Rest your elbows onto the chair and drop your chest and head between your elbows to feel a stretch in the upper back and lats (large muscles on either side of your middle-upper back). Hold for five seconds, release and repeat 10 times.
A chartered physiotherapist can help if your pain isn’t improving with self-help measures, or if you have any new, severe or worsening symptoms. Always seek professional advice before starting any new exercise regime.