The Thoracic Spine As A Force Transmission

The Thoracic Spine As A Force Transmission

The Thoracic Spine Does Not Always Need Mobility…

So, a big teaching point on the mentorship this week was looking at the importance of the rib cage for thoracic stability.

Now, the thoracic spine has gained a lot of popularity for needing mobility predominantly in articles such as this and this. And we now see all these drills here, there and everywhere on social media designed to get loads and loads of thoracic mobility. And yeah, sure, we need movement through the rib cage; we need movement through all joints, certainly. But one of the biggest and most overlooked functions of the thoracic spine is the stability component, especially in the gym where there are athletes transmitting a lot of forces through the ribcage.

So, when a lot of athletes are squatting, or when a lot of athletes are deadlifting, we need to appreciate the forces that the thoracic spine and the rib cage have to absorb and deal with.

There are also some studies coming out now looking at the importance of the rib cage to decrease compressive forces on the spine, but we also need to consider that there are not enough studies looking at the intercostal muscles as actual force absorbers.

But if we actually look at the recent studies that show that when they use the mathematical models for the compressive forces on the thoracic spine — (mathematical models, they’re not to the be-all and end-all, but they’re certainly useful), we can see that when the rib cage is taken to account, there is a 32% decrease of compressive forces that will now go through the thoracic spine. They haven’t looked at the lumbar spine, but that certainly tells us that if we can get the rib cage and the intercostal tissues doing their job, then certainly, that may help us take a lot of excessive forces away from the lumbar spine.

Now, anyone who’s worked in sports, or rugby league and rugby union (I’m sure some of you have), if your athlete has been squatting, or they’ve been deadlifting, and all of a sudden, their back goes into protective spasm or ‘protective’ mode, from my own clinical experience, that once we get that ribcage doing its job, we can change this pain output, and this warning signal (if you want to call it that), very quickly.  The thoracic spine and the rib cage will absorb alot of force in picking, pulling, squatting, deadlifting etc, don’t be so quick to, go after mobility with it, but actually, consider it in terms of meaningful movements…

The rib cage and the thoracic spine have to absorb a lot of forces, and in my opinion absorbing forces from the peripheral joints is a key function of this area of the body. So, when the peripheral joints are maybe not dealing with the forces well enough, then I think the thoracic spine and the rib cage will absorb a lot of those errors as well.

So, keep in mind when you’re in a rehab situation with an athlete, or with your return to play strategies and especially when the athletes go back into higher level movement, especially in the gym and the changes they have to cope with. The thoracic spine has a vital force absorption force absorption function, directing those forces around the body — it’s very, very important.

So, I just want you to keep that in mind the next time you are targetting the thoracic spine. Also if you haven’t picked up my 7 Steps To Clinical Excellence e-book yet, feel free to pick that up. It’s seven of the big lessons that I’ve learned the hard way, working in both private practice and professional sport. I’ll share with you some of my greatest lessons I’ve had to learn there as well. Once you request it, I’ll email it to you, and I’ll share those big lessons with you straight away.

So, that’s it for me this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Speak soon,


P.S If you haven’t picked up your free copy of my free ebook The Successful Discharge Blueprint below, click on the button and I’ll get it straight to you so you can start learning more about this way of looking at the body, which I’ve used in professional sport and private practice consistently over the last nine years…