The upper back, or thoracic spine, is a very rewarding area for me to treat as an Osteopath. As it’s commonly a place where people get stiff and tight, and then experience discomfort. It’s an area where there are lots of considerations to take into account, but changes can be made quite rapidly.

The upper back is naturally a stiffer part of our spine, quite unlike the very mobile neck and lower back. It has a ribcage attaching to it which provides protection for some very important organs, so it forms part of this protective structure.

The upper back commonly creates mechanical issues when subjected to poor posture. (See November 2012 and July 2013 postings for ideal seated posture.) Stress and tension very readily build up in this area. There are many structures traversing between the upper back, and to the neck and shoulders. Often I am not just treating one area, several may need to be addressed due to these and other connections.

As already mentioned, the upper back forms joints with the ribs. Sometimes these joints can get stiff or overstrained. Stress can create changes in our breathing patterns, and chronic respiratory conditions, like asthma, may do the same. Or occasionally a cough or cold may cause a more acute issue.  The diaphragm muscle, forming the floor of this section of the spine, is also an area that may receive overstrain, or be used poorly. This is also an area that can be helped with Osteopathy.

There are numerous mechanical issues that can arise in the upper back. Osteopathy will assess these structures, and carry out treatment to improve their function. Thereby gaining relief for the patient. Treatment consists of a wide variety of soft tissue massage and Osteopathic manipulation techniques.

The following exercise can help you mobilise this area, and if used regularly, should help maintain better breathing patterns, and better mechanics in the upper back. So hopefully very little discomfort as a result.

These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.

The exercise helps to improve the rotation in this part of the spine. It also uses our breathing, so we can use it to maintain good use of the connecting diaphragm and ribs.
Sitting slightly forward on a chair. Bring the back of your right hand behind you to rest on the seat. Rotate your body to the right side, as you do this, allow your left hand to rest on the outside of the right thigh. This will help maintain this position. In this position take 5 relaxed breaths. Think about the breath using the lower parts of your ribcage and diaphragm muscle, to fill your lungs up with air as much as possible. When you’re done, swap the position around, and repeat on the other side.