The Importance of the Ribcage Position and Thoracic Spine

What A Lot Of People Don’t Know

Anyone who is involved in sport, training in the gym or who likes to be fit and active will have heard of the importance of training your core and of core stability and for a lot of people that means doing loads of planks and sit ups.

(This can in fact bring about its own set of problems but that is another blog in itself)

What I want to focus on with this blog is the ribcage and thoracic spine and the influence it can have on pain, (such as low back pain, hamstring pain, calf pain) and the also role that it plays in stability and transmitting forces.

A lot of people are aware of thoracic mobility but unless you have stability first, then your body will not want to allow you the stability.

So lets start off with a few things you need to know about your ribcage.

What Do Our Ribs Do?

Your ribs attach onto the thoracic vertebrae and are designed to protect some very vital organs for your body. Your heart been one of them and your lungs been another.

In between your ribs we have muscles called intercostal muscles that help the ribs move and also provide protection. Under your ribs you have the diaphragm which is a dome shaped muscle that moves in order for you to breathe.

Attaching to your rib-cage you have a lot of big important muscles. Your abdominals, obliques and back muscles connect your ribs to your pelvis and up top you have chest muscles, that attach to your shoulder and muscles that run up to your neck.

Now, when you breathe in, your diaphragm shortens and moves down and your rib-cage moves out and up, ideally. When you exhale, the opposite happens. Diaphragm moves up and lengthens and your rib-cage moves down.

Watch this short video to see the effect of the rib cage on the position on the pelvis and the muscles around it

Why Do We Need To Know This?

Ok, so here is the bit that is in our interest to know.

If your rib-cage spends most of its time in an elevated position and struggles to come down or depress it can have a big influence on the position of your pelvis which can have a big influence on your back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.

So if you spend a lot of time in the gym, squating and lifting heavy weights then you will not be able to transmit forces as well as you should be from your feet to your arms, compensations will more than likely occur which in time, will probably lead to injury.

If you are a runner and run with your ribcage in an elevated position, there is a chance that this lead to low back pain, hamstring pain or calf pain.

If you are have been told that you have weak glutes and have been working your backside off (excuse the pun) to try and strengthen your glutes, but to no avail, then this could be down to you having and elevated ribcage, which can lead to an anterior tilted pelvis and your glutes been in a less than optimal position to do their job.

So Now I Know This, What Can I Do About It.

Knowledge is not much good unless we can apply it in some way.

One of the things we can do is to look at out breathing pattern and ‘reset’ our breathing pattern. You can do this by focusing on getting more length into our diaphragm muscle which in turn will allow your rib-cage to depress more easily.

What are the advatages of your rib-cage been able to depress more easily:

  • Your core muscles will naturally tighten more easily when you exhale and provide that ‘strong core’.
  • Tension will be taken off your low back muscles.
  • Your Glutes will be in a better position to fire.

This will help take tension off your hamstrings…. As you can see there are quite a few benefits.

This will all result in you been able to transmit forces better from your lower body to your upper body, which will allow your to move better and reduce your chance of picking up an injury.

Conclusion

Now, in a nutshell that is some of the reasons why I look at the rib-cage position and thoracic spine with pretty much all of my patients in my clinic as you can see the importance and influence it can have on pain, injury and restricted movement.

It can and does get more in depth than that, but for the sake of this blog and to give people a general idea behind the importance of rib cage positioning this is enough.

As always, if touch have any questions do get in touch at derek@midlandsphysicaltherapy.ie or leave any comments in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading,

Derek

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