Elite Facilities. Superior Care

Part 2: “You have a stiff back!”

The common message relayed is that the Thorax is generally ‘stiff’ and we need to improve this ‘stiffness’ to allow us to move more. What do we mean then by ‘stiff’?

The Thorax contributes to movement in all planes: forward and back (sagittal), side to side (coronal) and rotation (transverse). The primary movement of the Thorax is rotation, with between 6-9 degrees of motion occurring per segment. (Bogduk, 1997). If we look at this range of motion we can therefore appreciate the Thorax as an important area for movement as well as force transmission between the lower and upper body. It makes sense to say the Thorax is therefore ‘flexible’.

Recognising the Thorax as a slinky, with each segment or area moving in relation to the next is a good way of visualising its function.

This segmental and integrated movement requires the coordinated actions and control of many muscle groups. When this doesn’t occur movement can become sub-optimal and give rise to movement restriction and quiet often observable ‘stiffness’.

Signs of poor movement and altered muscle control can be evidenced in conditions above and below the Thorax. Poor coordination can lead to changes in control of other muscle groups and can ultimately lead to issues such as:

  • Shoulder impingement and neck pain. (Lee, 2003)
  • Low back and pelvic pain (McConnell, 2005)

It is important the Thorax is not overlooked and a thorough assessment of its movement is performed by a trained specialist such as a Physiotherapist. A Physiotherapist will be able to determine if poor observable movement in the Thorax is a contributor to your symptoms and and provide advice on the best course of management.

  • Management strategies may involve:
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Manual therapy to facilitate improved movement and motor control
  • Guided exercise rehabilitation to retrain movement and motor control

If you would like any further information on this post and/or a list of the references don’t hesitate to contact the clinic on the details below.

To book a time for an expert physiotherapist assessment to determine if the thorax is area that may be contributing to your musculoskeletal impairment, do not hesitate to contact Recover Sports Medicine on 1300 858 774 or alternatively on contact@recoversportsmed.com.au


Chris Tandy
Physiotherapist
Recover Sports Medicine
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