Thoracic Mobility: The Cage vs The Spring

I have been working with a client to increase the movement around the thoracic spine - generally from base of the neck to the bottom of the ribs. A comment about her hurt in life and the efforts and care she dotes on others got me thinking about the heart. And it got me thinking about the amazing network of bones around the heart. We call it a ribCAGE which denotes maybe this idea of a static and rigid framework around the most vital organs.

However, when we breathe fully (deep into the diaphragm) we have the sense of movement in the ribs. Most people though tend to breathe into the sternum and upper traps, which leads to a more rounded thoracic area (called kyphosis) and lends a sense of stiffness to this notion of the ribs as a cage. When we rotate, our pelvis moves in opposing directions and when they work together, the two are our prime movers in our overall movement. Even the joints where the ribs meet the spine are more moveable and house receptors for communication with the brain.

So here’s the thing: our ribCAGE is actually is more like a spring. It’s resilient, able to bend and move and return back to it’s form. And the same is true for the emotions that we feel under the spring. We experience heartache and we recover — we bounce back. Or we don’t and our posture perhaps shows it and our the cage does truly become more hard and rigid. Also a good reminder that we should give love as well as receive. It is interesting to note that in a heart attack, our ribs will move 2” to give first responders an opportunity to resuscitate us. But the movement has its limitations.

While not large we have mobility in the thoracic spine — rotation, lateral and some extension and flexion. I find that the ability to backbend improves as you improve rotation and axial extension (that sense of lengthening the spine). We have this resilient network of bone and cartilage that protects our heart from the outside world all while having the ability to be expansive and more mobile than we might think. And maybe on an emotional level, we can remember that there are lots of ways to open ourselves up to love, but the first is to start within.