Beware you are now entering Thoracic Park

I have had some problems previously when I’ve been stacked when been rolling, which has been a sore cervical and thoracic spine.  Just so you know which bit of the back I am talking about I have stuck a picture below.

Sections of the Spine

So I hope this clears up the technical sectional names I used.  Yeah I would not give up my position and end up balancing across my shoulders, so I was putting a lot of pressure on the muscles there.  I knew it wasn’t my neck (cervical spine) as I had pretty good mobility there.  So I looked into it a bit more and the thoracic spine or T Spine ( if you’re down with the kids), loses mobility/flexibility as you get older, also if you do a lot of upper body exercise, sit at a desk or computer a lot.  Well I ticked all of those boxes so I figured I should do something to improve the situation.

I looked into this further to see what I could do at home and everything sent me in the direct of a foam roller.  I discovered that there are different types of these.  You can get a standard foam roller from £10-£20 (on the Left) and you can get the harder Trigger Point “The Grid” ( on the Right) for about £34 both on Amazon.

My Foam Rollers

The foam roller is softer and The Grid as you can see has a solid plastic tube for the core. They both have pros and cons and can be used for more than just thoracic mobility, but I’ll cover the other uses another time.

So what fun things did this Old Munki get up to with his roller? A good starting/base exercise with the foam roller is below:

Overall this has helped the most, as it improved my spinal flexibility and I continue to it use as the basis of my ongoing thoracic mobility maintenance programme.  I’m not being pompous here, but as an Old Munki I have to have a general wellness programme (diet, mobility,exercise & supplements), to help me maintain mat time and an overall healthy body.  But generally mobility is a good idea at any age.  I do use some other exercises to give me a full range of flexibility in the thoracic area.  Theses other exercises don’t need a foam roller but work the rotational movement of the T Spine.  I also found out that the T Spine is the segment of the spine that we should be using to rotate and twist, not the lumbar spine. Another technical fact, the lumbar spine has a maximum rotational range of 13 degrees; the thoracic spine can rotate 35 degrees.  No it makes sense to maintain this, “use or lose it” as they say.

This is called a side lying thoracic spine rotation.  You can see from the clip how to do the basic exercise. However it may not be clear that your legs should be at 90 degrees.  Also whilst you are doing this tense your abdominal muscles in order to help keep your lumbar spine from rotating. You should definitely feel the rotation in your chest and upper back if you have any stiffness in your T Spine. Do ten rotations on each side, holding for a couple seconds at the end of each rep.

This is a good video explaining how to do a quad position thoracic extension and rotation.  It may not seem like much but I’ve found it to be just as effective just like the previous ones.  I personally have found these few exercises extremely helpful in loosening up my T Spine mobility. To the extent that when I have rolled since I have been really strongly stacked and I have been either able to roll out or work the position.  Then afterwards not be in any muscular discomfort. Which for an Old Munki is a personal bonus!  I should point out that I don’t tend to do these every day now, just a couple of times a week to keep things moving.  I hope this journey through thoracic park will be helpful for you with any T Rex Spine issues that may crop up for you.  Let me know if it’s been helpful or useful.


One comment

  1. I’ve been using a foam roller for the past 6 to 8 months as well. Both for the reasons above and for general muscle tissue health, and I’ve noticed a huge (positive) difference. Less muscle soreness, faster recovery, greater flexibility, etc. I was skeptical at first, mostly because it hurt some damn much, but after I stuck with it for a few weeks, it wasn’t so painful and I started to notice the benefits. Articles like this helped me commit to it, and now I use it as both a warm up and a post-workout cool down: (

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