Your Mid back may be the cause of your aches and pains in your shoulders, neck and lower back.
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
What is your mid back?
The mid back/spine is located between the neck (i.e. cervical) and lower back regions (i.e. lumbar). Together the mid back is made up of 12 spinal bones (i.e.vertebrae). Vertebrae are interlocking bones that make up your spine. The mid back makes up a large part of the spine, which is generally made up of 33 bones in total. The mid back allows for a large amount of movement when looking at the spine as a whole.
Why is your mid back so important?
During movement, the many joints of the spine work together to allow for movement in various directions. As a result, this allows us to perform different exercises. Movements specific to the spine include: turning, forward bending, bending backwards and bending sideways. The mid back contributes significantly (80%) to movements where there is turning of the torso. Rotation of the spine occurs in a variety of common daily activities. Activities include turning in your chair to look behind you or pick up an object and when throwing a ball to your kids or during sporting actions..
Enough mobility is therefore important to performing both functional and sport specific movements. Functional movements includes tasks done everyday such as picking up a heavy object on the floor. Whereas sport specific movements may include a golf swing, forehand and backhand in tennis. The amount of mobility needed depends on the activity that you are performing. Mobility is the ability to actively move various joints through a full range. This body segment motion around joints occurs by using your muscles. This term is often confused with flexibility. Flexibility refers to passively making a muscle longer through a range of motion. So this means that someone can be very flexible but lack mobility. Mobility therefore includes that mind-muscle connection to control movement at all your joints.
Think of a ballet dancer who can raise her leg high up in the air. This mobility is achieved from consistent muscle strengthening that is specific to ballet. This action requires both muscle strength and flexibility to perform. In contrast think of yourself sitting on the floor and reaching to touch your toes. This is flexibility and does not require muscle strength to perform as it is very much passive.
The human body is complex
In both a functional (everyday life) and sporting context, movement must occur in a coordinated manner. This means that different parts of the body must work together to ensure movement quality and reduce unnecessary stress on other parts of the body such as the neck, lower back and shoulders. The human body is complex and this provides a perfect example of how being limited in one area can cause aches and pains in another. With this in mind, poor mid back mobility can negatively impact everyday life, sports performance or increase the risk of injury to your neck, lower back and shoulders.
How your mid back impacts other areas of your body
Limited mid back mobility can increase the stress being placed on other related joints or muscles. This occurs as your body is clever and will compensate to get a movement done. Example: a tennis player who has limited mid back mobility may compensate or move too much through the lower back when serving or playing a backhand = more strain on his lower back. In day to day tasks you may injure your lower back when lifting a heavy object above your head due to naturally over arching your lower back as you do not have adequate movement in your mid back.
This ultimately shows that limitations in your mid back may actually contribute significantly to the negative complications such as chronic or acute injury in your elbow, shoulder, neck and lower back.
A key message from this is that pain in one region of the body may be related to limitations in another part of the body. As a Biokineticist we help you identify these restricted areas in the mid back. This is key to providing you with the best possible exercise treatment plan.
Reasons why your mid back may be behaving badly
Restrictions in your mid back may be brought on by several factors. There is rapid modernization and computerization in our everyday lives and the workplace. The result is long periods of sitting time in front of the television, computer and phone on a daily basis. Prolonged sitting (>8 hours a day) is a form of inactive behavior that occurs commonly in most developed societies.
There is certainly a link between prolonged sitting and increased levels of pain in the neck-shoulder and lower back. Just think of yourself hunched over at the computer screen with your head protruding forward. In addition this occurs for hours on end. This behavior occurring on most days is bound to negatively affect you.
A Biokineticist can assist you
We as Biokineticists are knowledgeable about the human body. We understand how limitations in one area of your body can cause pain somewhere else due to compensational movement. In a Biokinetics evaluation, we assess you to identify these problems. Following this we provide you with exercise treatment to help you move better and improve your symptoms.
Exercise is the treatment you need
Those who participate in regular physical activity or exercise generally have better mid back mobility compared to inactive individuals. Exercise reduces harmful joint stiffness and muscle shortening. So resulting from being in the same posture for hours each day (i.e. hunched sitting). Physical activity (PA) is defined as moderate to vigorous physical effort of more than 150 minutes per week. PA less than this or more than 7 hours spent sitting a day may result in mid back restrictions. Importantly young adults (18-30 years old) are an at-risk group for development of mid back problems. Many likely to be employed in jobs that require them to sit most of the day.
On the upside, this group of people have the best potential to better improve mid back restrictions and mobility. As a result there may be less degenerative changes that usually occur in the thirties. Improving the movement in your mid back earlier in life is key.
It is clear that the mid back is very important when looking at your body as a whole. Poor movement ability in the mid back can lead to a chain reaction of aches and pains. Consequently you may struggle to do the things you love. Try as best as you can to sit less during the day and get up and walk at least every hour to reduce the negative consequences of prolonged sitting..
Be more conscious of your posture when sitting at the computer and try change it as often as possible. The only good posture is one that is constantly changing. To sum up take part in more PA and exercise to improve your mid back mobility. If you are struggling with aches and pains already then contact us at the Health & Fitness Hub. In short you can be evaluated by our Biokineticist and receive an effective treatment plan today.