The Fix

A Tight Back

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - By Brid­get Pyke Brid­get Pyke is a phys­io­ther­a­pist in Cal­gary, with a spe­cial in­ter­est in work­ing with run­ners.

Your back car­ries the bulk of the stress from a day sit­ting in front of a screen. Here’s how to get your spine sup­ple once again Your tho­racic or “T-”spine is your up­per back, the area be­tween the neck and low back. The joints in this area al­low a lot of move­ment, par­tic­u­larly ro­ta­tion. But be­cause we spend the ma­jor­ity of our lives hunched over com­put­ers, steer­ing wheels and cell­phones, our T-spine is con­sis­tently in a f lexed po­si­tion. “Use it or lose it” is the motto of the hu­man body. If we do not reg­u­larly move our joints through their avail­able ranges of mo­tion, we can lose mo­bil­ity and f lex­i­bil­ity. So, as a re­sult of too much time spent f lexed, with min­i­mal ex­ten­sion or ro­ta­tional move­ments, the mod­ern day T-spine can get quite stiff. The abil­ity to move freely through your T-spine is note­wor­thy to run­ners for these im­por­tant rea­sons:


Your T-spine is con­nected to your ribs, and both the T-spine and ribs sur­round your lungs. Flexed pos­ture re­stricts your abil­ity to fully inf late your lungs. This re­sults in less oxy­gen in­take and in­hib­ited ca­pac­ity for aer­o­bic ex­er­cise.

En­ergy trans­fer and in­jury pre­ven­tion

Your spine is the link be­tween your up­per and lower limbs. In sports that in­volve al­ter­nat­ing arm and leg move­ments, such as run­ning, cross-coun­try ski­ing or skat­ing, this link needs to func­tion prop­erly for the im­pact of your foot on the ground to be ab­sorbed and ap­pro­pri­ately trans­ferred through the body. With dys­func­tion in one area of the body, other ar­eas are prone to im­bal­ance, overuse or com­pen­sa­tion. For ex­am­ple, a stiff up­per back is com­pen­sated for by ex­cess ro­ta­tion through the low back, in­creas­ing the strain on the low back ( joints and discs).


When the bones of the body are in proper align­ment and our joints have suf­fi­cient move­ment or “play,” this min­i­mizes stress on the sur­round­ing soft tis­sue struc­tures such as lig­a­ments, ten­dons and mus­cles. Proper align­ment al­lows mus­cles to work at their ideal length and ten­sion, pro­duc­ing larger forces with the least amount of ef­fort. This means our body can work smarter, not harder.

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