Overcome ‘poor posture’

 In Exercise and Health


Good afternoon guys, I just wanted to carry on further on from where we started with my last Facebook live segment which was about poor posture and the effect that stiffness in the thoracic spine actually has on our posture.

So that notion that where, you know that poor posture is in that slumped stooped position because of our laziness or because of our ineptness to hold our shoulders back, we challenged that last Facebook live session with myself so if you want to flick back through the feed you’re welcome to look at that to get the prior information context but today I want to talk about, ok we’ve identified that stiffness here is the key driver for a poor posture because the shoulder blades, just to quickly recap, will drop in around and around the rib cage in doing so pulling the shoulders into this position and also creating extra load through these muscles, down the traps and later scap muscles that sit on top here and that’s where you get that classic pattern where you feel like you have to always have to get your neck massaged. So in the treatment room we assess the stiffness in the thoracic spine when it comes to posture, when it comes to neck strain, interestingly stiffness here also plays one of the biggest factors in terms of people’s lower back health.  It also plays a factor in terms of the shoulder health. There’s rarely a patient with shoulder problems being an impingement, versatis, rotator cuff problems that doesn’t actually have a stiff thoracic spine as one of their key factors that are contributing to their injury presentation.

So, how do we address the stiffness? Next session I do as an aside I will actually show you guys how we measure for thoracic spine stiffness but let’s assume today that you or someone in these rooms has stiffness.  Here’s the go to exercise that I’ll prescribe to overcome that stiffness at home. It’s using a half Pilates foam roller, they’re less than thirty dollars, we stock them here at POGO physio.  They are one of my favourite rehabilitation tools, there’s not really a person walking on the planet subject to gravity that wouldn’t benefit from this exercise I’m about to show you.  So with a half foam roller we want to get into these stiff parts of the thoracic spine, basically if you think of female’s at bra strap level, above it, on the bra strap and below it. For guys just think shoulders blade level in between the shoulder blades above it and below it. Now the exercise looks like this, you pop it on your floor at home, now this is on the treatment table just for ease of demonstration and you place it between your should blades, the knees must be bent up, really important to take load off the lower back then you simply lay back over the roller, you put your hands out to the side, palms up to open up the chest. That gives you a great pec stretch as well.  To increase the load you can then take the hands over head into a streamline position.  That just increases that extension of movement of spine back the other way.  Now, you simply then just roll down a little further and let the roller get into the next bit, arms out to the side breathing, hands over head – whole time breathing just moving up and down through that thoracic spine.  Now you do not need to put it in your lower back for this specific exercise that can be done for something different at another stage but this is all about getting thoracic mobility to get that good posture. So that’s the exercise five to ten minutes now like most exercises my go to saying is consistency beats frequency so that means if you truly want to change and improve your thoracic spine mobility do it consistently over time. If you get excited about using the half foam roller for your thoracic spine and you do it every day for a week and then don’t do it again for a week after that, you would have been better off to pace yourself and do it two or three times a week consistently over time.  If you’re trying to make a meaningful change then daily is always going to be best, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day.   My experience of helping people of the last ten years of helping people with stiff thoracic spines is those that get in and get these rollers and start this exercise quickly and do it consistently get far greater results than those that sort of dilly dally and do it one or two times a week when they feel like it.

A couple of other points about this exercise, one would be if you have such a stiff thoracic spine, remember we’re going to come back and measure, show you how to measure, or I’ll explain how we measure and quantify it on a second or third video on this little series.  If you have such a stiff thoracic spine that laying on this means that your head hangs back excessively like so. Then you will need a pillow, ok, just to take that extension out of your neck so that you don’t strain your neck.  Also to note would be if you’re really stiff sometimes I get patients that pad this over with a towel just to soften it a little bit before they then lay on it and the last little point on this thoracic spine half foam roller exercise is when you get off it really important to do not do what I just did but to roll onto your side, a bit hard to demonstrate on the table because we are not on the floor and just slowly lever up through that foetal position as you get off the floor rather than doing the “huh” good old crunch that can put a lot of load on your lower back and finally people ask “can’t I just do it with a full foam roller, or the round full ones?”   The answer is no, the reason being the full foam roller will bend you in the bit that already want to bend in on your spine, it won’t actually get in and mobilise the segments that are stiff.  So you do need the half roller.  Lastly, can you use a towel to do it?  My answer is no, unless it is stiff you won’t be able to tolerate something like this to start with and at that point I might  prescribe a towel for a week or two at the most.  Just a couple of insights guys, any questions drop them in the comments below and next Facebook live with me we will look at how to measure that thoracic spine.  So important for posture, neck pain, shoulders and lower back health.

So guys, have a great afternoon and in the meantime perform better.


Physio With A Finish Line,

Brad Beer physiotherapist gold coast

Brad Beer (APAM)

Physiotherapist (APAM)
Author ‘You CAN Run Pain Free!
Founder POGO Physio

Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog

discover-recover-physio gold coast


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Showing 2 comments
  • Mike Morrissey

    Hi Brad, I use a device called a BakBall for my upper back. It was prescribed by a physio a couple of years ago. I assume you’ve seen these?
    What’s your view of these, in comparison to a half-roller, for mobilising the upper back ?

    • Brad Beer

      Thanks for your question Mike.

      The BakBalls are great-I would suggest combining with the half roller.

      Regards Brad Beer

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