The spine has the same elements in a human body: natural and balanced curves when in a neutral position. When the pelvis is in a neutral position, it allows for the space between each vertebra as they are aligned in their natural curves.
Look at the spine as having two halves: the upper cervicothoracic half and the lower lumbosacral half. Both halves can move and the ability of stabilize.
Ideally, you should stabilize the lumbar spine, mobilize the thoracic spine and both mobilize and stabilize the cervical spine.
However, transition areas are often forgotten and shouldn’t be!
The thoracic and lumbar spine (T12/L1) connect at one of the most important locations in the body and is referred to as the thoracolumbar joint. Many big and important muscles like psoas and latissimus dorsi are inserted in this area. It’s also where the diaphragm and cauda equina (nerves at the end of spinal cord) live.
The lumbar spine has a very small range of motion for rotation, while the thoracic is capable of a great deal of this same motion. It’s a transitional area between stability and mobility.
Why should you care?
There’s often major dysfunction in this area of the body.
Many people get rigid between the lumbar and thoracic spine. This can happen to compensate the lack of stability in the lumbar or because the thoracic spine is stuck. Very often we see people nearly collapsing in this section of the spine. In all situations it’s important to restore some degree of rotation and more important than that, to create more volume and space inside the bottom part of the rib cage.
My favourite exercise solution
I use this exercise all the time and call it “fill the gap spinal rotation.” It’s an exercise that works to expand the lower ribs, stabilize the lumbar spine and facilitate good mobility of the thoracic spine.
What you can expect as a result is the sensation of creating more space across the waist area, the ability to breath deeper and three dimensionally, taking the pressure out of SI joints and more stability for shoulder blades (because the movement targets the obliques). The spine should feel supple and long after that.
How to do “fill the gap spinal rotation”
SET UP: Sit on a Pilates Cadillac with a stability sling around your back at T12/L1. Use short yellow or blue springs. If your legs don’t reach the posts, use a foam roller to press your feet into.
PART 1: Rotate upper torso to the right and then left, keeping pelvis quiet. Do this 3-5 times.
PART 2: Roll off sitting bones and flex the lumbar spine while rotating the upper body to the right. Sit tall. Repeat left. And back up. Repeat 3-5 times.
MODIFICATION: If you don’t have a Pilates Cadillac, try this exercise with a Pilates Theraband. You may need to get creative for where to fasten it. Make sure it’s secure before starting this exercise.