Joseph Pilates said, “the art of Contrology proves that the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the degree of natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine throughout life. If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” (Joseph H. Pilates, Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology, p.27)

The spine, consisting of 24 bones (vertebrae) includes: 7 cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (upper back) and 5 lumbar (low back) and is the “center” of our body. It allows the body to be in an upright, stable position and when it is strong and mobile it allows movement in all directions: flexion, extension, side bending and rotation. Did you know: decreased spinal mobility, specifically in the thoracic spine, can increase the risk of injuries involving the neck, shoulders and low back?

Today, many of us sit in flexion all day, whether hunched over a computer at work, slouched in a car or eyes down on our phones. These all cause poor posture and often poor extension, which can lead to improper movement patterns, compensations and eventually pain and injury.

When your thoracic spine is operating optimally it allows you to safely execute basically all the movements you use in your daily activities: reaching for a dish from a shelf, turning to check your child in the backseat of your car, bending to pick up something from the floor. When your thoracic spine isn’t operating optimally it can affect your upper and lower extremity movements, your posture and yes, even your breathing. Improving your thoracic spine mobility can help to increase your lung capacity, thereby opening up your chest to improve breathing mechanics and ultimately boosting your cardiovascular capacity.

One of the many benefits of a regular Pilates practice is optimizing your spinal mobility, being able to articulate the bones of the spine in segments, piece by piece, sequentially, can prevent injuries throughout your entire body … spinal mobility = functional fitness = pain free movement = enjoying life!

As the warmer weather approaches, the return to outdoor activities is right around the corner … golfing, running, swimming, baseball, tennis, hiking, kayaking or running around after your kids/grandkids this summer. If you thoracic spine has proper mobility, you will prevent pain and injury. Test your thoracic mobility using this quick and easy exercise: “Ribcage Arms”:

Lay on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor.
Reach your arms up to the ceiling and then overhead trying to keep your arms in line with your ears.
Your low back should not arch and your ribs should not pop toward the ceiling. If they do, you have decreased spinal mobility.

By improving the alignment and mobility of your thoracic spine, you will improve your posture, reduce chance of injury and be able to accomplish daily activities more easily. You will feel better because you are able to breathe more easily and provide oxygen to the muscles and organs of your body.

Questions about decreased spinal mobility, or want to improve yours? Call Bodylines today! We have a team of Physical therapists, Physical therapist assistants, and Pilates Instructors that have extensive experience in dealing with a variety of decreased spinal mobility issues and injuries. Combine that with Pilates and it’s the perfect formula for keeping you pain free and feeling strong to do all your summer activities.