The Thoracic Ring Approach™: Time to Decompress

February 26, 2017

In our last blog we introduced the Thoracic Ring Approach™(TRA), a physiotherapy model used to assess and manage dysfunction in the thorax and how “stacked thoracic rings” relate to optimal whole body function.

 

 

The TRA postulates that for optimal function, the thoracic rings should remain stacked in posture and during movement.

 

 

This is not always the case. Unstacked rings do not always result in non-optimal function. Many people walk, run, swim and golf with unstacked rings with no problems.

 

 

Over time it is the compensations that ensue that have the potential to cause dysfunction and dysfunction that can then result in symptoms.

 

 

Pain.

 

Tension.

 

Headaches.

 

Tendinopathies.

 

 

A common pattern of dysfunction observed in the thorax is compression. This decreases the space in the body limiting the body’s options available for movement.

 

 

Compression results from a combination of:

  1. Gravity – when you sit all day you get shorter.

  2. Increased muscle activity – there are many muscles that attach to the thoracic rings which when facilitated (increased tone) – will compress. This is often due to altered postural and movement strategies.

 

For example, with forward head posture, the upper cervical spine can be compressed by increased tension in suboccpitals and sternocleidomastoid muscles.

 

In the thorax, rings can be compressed by several different muscles, including intercostals, pec minor and serratus anterior.

 

When the rings are compressed, a variety of symptoms can result, often outside the thoracic region.

 

 

Headaches.

 

Lower back pain.

 

Knee pain.

 

Even pain in your big toe!

 

 

While many may not report pain or tension in the thorax it is often found to be stiff. This stiffness is compression, due to increased neuromuscular forces around the ribcage.

 

One of the main goals of the TRA is to improve the alignment, biomechanics and control within the thorax.

 

This allows for increased space and thus more options available for posture and movement. 

 

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