How to Increase your Mid Back Extension?
Mid back pain often comes from overly tight upper traps, poor neck posture, tightness within the upper back, and tightness within the chest. The inability to have proper upper back movements often results in neck pain and shoulder pain. With all the sitting we do in todays society we also roll our shoulders inward, which contributes to a very tight and shortened chest.
Why Loosen up The Mid-Back?
Loosening the mid back up is easy in concept but you may need to do this fairly often and make some daily changes to your posture to help lasting results. Simply stated, you need to loosen up the muscles that are overly tight and strengthen the muscles that are too loose. This will help correct muscle imbalances. It is sometimes difficult to know exactly which muscles need the care but generally speaking the upper back, shoulder, and chest need a lot of work.
Adding extension into the mid back helps the joint mechanics of the mid back, neck, and shoulder. As the mid back starts to overly round (kyphosis), it allows the neck to protract or move forward. As this occurs your head literally will translate more and more forward which can increase a lot more pressure on the spine, discs, nerves. From this point, many of the other muscles will begin to overly compensate and tighten up.
In addition, the scapular (shoulder blade) is a joint that follows the curvature of the thoracic cage. It is actually attached only by muscles so essentially it is just free floating but its directly effected by the curvature/position of the thoracic spine. When the spine bends forward again, the shoulder blade muscles then become de-conditioned and the position of the shoulder blade tips forward. This creates too much elevation of the scapula and compresses the rotator cuff. Specifically, this will compress the Supraspinatus muscle and is known as impingement syndrome. Other shoulder injuries or conditions that can arise from this is called scapular wining.
Either way, when your thoracic spine does not have enough mobility and extension you are most definitely risking chronic mid back tightness, neck pain, and shoulder injuries to come. Sometimes this can be an easy fix but there are a lot of factors, muscles at play in this.
To keep it very simple, start with improving your thoracic spine extension on the foam roller. Place the foam roller under the back and roll out your mid back. You may want to cross your hands over your chest or grab behind the neck.
If you are more advanced or need to get more range of motion you can use your hands to go over your head. By using your arms overhead you can then use the palms of the hands to help walk your spine into further extension which can help improve your mobility. Often times you can feel a pop or crack. This is called a cavitation and is actually a release of gas in the joint space. No worries, it typically feels good and will not contribute the any problems. This sound is the same sound that occurs when you crack your knuckles or when the Chiropractor does an adjustment to your spine.
The cavitation will result in a slight increase in range of motion. You can stop the foam rolling if you like if you get a crack or pop but it is advised that you repeat this exercise often and you should likely do this at least twice. The body learns through repetition repeatedly getting more motion will only benefit your mid back.