Thoracic Spine and Shoulder Girdle

This area refers to the thoracic spine (T/spine), rib cage and shoulder girdle.

The T/Spine is integral to all functional movements of the body and is responsible for spinal flexion, extension, side bending, and rotation of the spine. Because the rib cage attaches to the spine, we call it part of the spine. The rib cage is very much involved in the protection of the organs and the effectiveness of breathing. The shoulder girdle articulates with the T/spine via muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and nerves.

We have 12 vertebrae in our T/spine and 24 ribs (12 on each side). As the last two ribs do not make contact with the sternum, they are known as floating ribs.

The scapular (shoulder blade) is a wide flat bone that sits on the back on the upper ribs. The Humerus (upper arm bone) joins to the scapular via the labrum (a ring of cartilage on the edge of the scapular in which there is a cup shaped socket for the Humerus to sit in.

This is a highly complex system, extremely mobile, but can have poor stability.

Common problems associated with the T/Spine and Shoulder Girdle:

  •  Excessive thoracic kyphosis  – when there is a greater than normal curvature of the T/Spine.
  •  Protracted shoulder girdle – when the shoulder blades move away from the spine and cause the edge closest to the spine of the scapula to move forward on the rib cage.
  •  Internally rotated arms – when the Humerus rotates inward towards the midline of the body.
  •  Elevated scapula – when the shoulders elevate in a dysfunctional (shrugging) motion.

Do you have one shoulder higher than the other? Do your hands, when hanging by your side, face the back of the room? Do you get tension in the upper shoulders? Is there pain in the front of you shoulders?

All these are classic signs of a dysfunctional T/spine and scapula.