The thoracic spine, also known as your mid back sits between your neck and your low back. This part of your spine is where your ribcage connects to help protect organs and allow us to move with inhalation and exhalation. Functional mobility in the mid back is imperative to a healthy neck and low back. This is the section of the spine that contributes often to a “hunch back position” creating tension in our neck and shoulders. Since the thoracic spine is wedge between the neck and back it tends to be more rigid.
As you can see in the diagram the cervical spine and the lumbar spine are meant for stability or strength/control. Therefore, the middle back has to be able to move to allow above and below to create that control.
Stability means sturdiness or lack of too much sliding/gliding on the joint structures. Mobility allows us to bend, twist, and move to be able to lift, carry, turn, roll etc.
If we lack stability or mobility in one of these areas the disc and vertebrae are more likely to degenerate due to excessive torque. Think of it this way if our middle back is supposed to move however it is tight or restricted then the spinal levels above and below will try to make up for the lack of movement by moving more. Remember the low back and neck are supposed to be sturdy. If they have to move more to make up for lack of movement in the mid back then that friction/movement will create more wear and tear than designed, thus leading to weakness.
The other function of the mid back is to allow the rib cage to expand and depress to help our lungs get air in and air out. We do not want to have shallow breathing by not allowing the ribs to expand and taking full breaths. We also do not want to become hyperinflated by not exhaling and getting our full breaths out. Good rib and thoracic mobility allow us to take advantage of better breathing patterns.
This video shows you how to unlock the mid back by combining soft tissue mobility and dynamic mobility. See below for ways to unlock your mid back through mobility.