Thoracic Rotations- Showing up as upper back pain

Thoracic Rotations- Showing up as upper back pain
A lot of my clients come in with upper back discomfort (often on one side.) Sometimes this is due to repeating  motion twisting in one direction and not equally the other.... 

When you look over your shoulder you should turn your body in this way:
First- initiate the movement using your eyes. Then turn hips, turn shoulders, follow through with your neck. This uses synergistic muscles. These are muscles that work together to create a movement. It will also train the nervous system. The nervous system motor skills are developed by babies are they develop their motor skills. Pressing up on belly, rocking, crawling and rolling over are patterns that the baby earns.  These movements actually train the brain. (It also affects the brain in other ways too. For example- crawling and reading are connected. If you don’t do the motor movement of training the brain with crawling, you will have issues with reading.) While most adults had perfected movement as babies, over time and or injuries, we lose ideal movement. By practicing these movements we can retrain our brain and nervous system. Like turning the computer off and back on can re-boot the computer system, doing these movement patterns reboots our nervous system. For more information on Original strength. 

How rolling patterns/thoracic rotation show up as adults. Turning the neck. Driving. Sitting at desks with a dominant hand. Repetitive movement like me doing massage. Babies if bottle fed from the same side, or always on the same hip being held. 
How to address it?
  • Break down the movement…(train individual muscles)
  • Put it together as a body (training the nervous system with rolling patterns)
  • Apply it to life
Break down the movement:
This is great when spending a lot of time at the computer. You have a preference to sides. Examples would be sitting at a desk turning to one side. Or for when you regularly reach to a particular side for something from your desk, such as a printer or calculator. You will need more work to your less dominant side.  In gait, your thoracic area should equally rotate to both sides. You can see this as one arm moving more forward than the other side (or one being further back.) You should have good equal movement on both sides, so improving this movement can decrease repetitive injuries. For gait: a marching movement accentuating the arms will help

Once the twisting pattern seems simple- add resistance by doing band work. This trains the brain- its more about the stretchy equal movement rather than muscling through it....
Rolling patterns.
(Rolling patterns show us where we are having issues with synergistic movement and teach our brain how to do the movement) You can determine where issues are according to where you have challenges moving. These are both the test and the treatment. And use props. We are training the nervous system. Its fine to get yourself halfway there with half bolsters or pillows because you are training your brain HOW to make the movement. As you get better, you challenge it until you can do all the movement. And Original strength has ways of challenging the movement even further should you want to add (body) weight or repetition.
4 quadrants, both sides= 8 ways to do this. Each arm and leg leads, front and back.
Using tools to improve: Rapid light stimulation (bumpy balls) on the muscle chains can improve function/ Feel the area better/ perform it better. It a muscle or joint isn’t mobile enough, longer, deeper and slower foam rolling can improve function. 
Rolling patterns: Original Strength 
Issues with driving show up often because of stiffness or lack to stability causing stiffness. These are exercises that can help with mobility. In addition to mobility, increasing proprioception and improving proprioceptive nerves help with reflex time.
Note: you could straighten the under leg and bolster the upper bent leg…(Katy’s)
Ankle mobility test: lunge position on floor with front toe 4 inches from wall. Keeping heel on ground, see if you can touch your knee to the wall. Compare sides.
Humeral Arm twist: on ground or against walls, keeping arm and hands straight twist from the shoulder. 
Finger stretch: one finger at a time extended.
Elbow touch:  Place your elbows touching in front of your body with hands pointed towards ceiling- Separate hands with your elbows still touching. 
In Katy Bowman’s book- Dynamic Aging there is a graph with common issues with driving dexterity and the exact exercises that help it. 
For more information:
Original Strength
Katy Bowman   Nutritious Movement
Rachel Dixon,LMT    508-364-2380

My #1 Solution for Acute Back Pain!

My #1 Solution for Acute Back Pain!
Egoscue Static Back
The Egoscue Static back is my favorite go-to passive exercise to stack the body right and reduce back discomfort,. While being passive (you just get into position and lie there), the force of gravity against the relatively hard ground allows your body to work a lot, reducing rotation at both the pelvis and shoulder.
This E-cise is for you if:
  • You have a sore back or disk injury
  • You have a forward slumped posture
  • You have a pelvis or shoulder disparity (different from the other side)
  • You want to relax and improve your posture at the end of the day
  1. Lie on your back with your legs up over your inflatable large block or up over a chair/couch.
    1. Your arms are at 45 degrees and your palms up.Try to relax your upper back and notice if your low back is flat evenly from left to right.HOLD – and work on diaphragmatic breathing

      Diaphragmatic Breathing (especially while in an aligned state) will help to create better thoracic stability AND lessen your stress levels. It’s not always easy to just “be less stressed”. This is an activity you can do to help with that. LOIS Breathing.
Here is how to do ideal diaphragmatic breathing.
  1. Place one hand on your belly and one on your clavicle. Your lower belly hand should be the one moving, but you should also be breathing out to the sides of your ribs and into the back. You will not just rise up into your collar bone or neck.
  2. Breathe in and out, silently, through your nose
  3. Make your exhale longer than your inhale. *important as this is how to be in that less stressed state. You can also HUM on the exhale.
  4. Tongue on roof of mouth, teeth apart, lips together, eyes level, neck and shoulder at rest.
Additional Egoscue E-cises for Back Discomfort…

  1. Lie on your back with one leg up over your inflatable large block or chair
  2. Your other leg is straight out on the floor with it propped up from the side
  3. Your arms should be at 45degree with palms up. RELAX your upper body and notice that your low back should begin to get flatter to the floor the longer you are in this position.
  4. HOLD and relax, then repeat on the other leg 

    Air  Bench
  5. Stand with your back against a wall with feet and knees hip width apart and feet pointed straight.
  6. Walk your feet away from the wall while sliding your body down. Get in a “seated” invisible chair, with your hips higher than knees, knee not further than ankles, and your low back pressed into the wall.
  7. Hold for one minute or as comfortable.

For more information on Egoscue postural alignment (done online right at home) please contact me at

Knots in Shoulder :Part 2

Knots in Shoulder :Part 2

In the last blog post- I wrote about an e-cise routine that used my favorite postural exercise- the Static Back- to help reduce tight rounded shoulders with winged scapulas. While passive exercises can be very effective (why not use gravity to your favor?) ACTIVE e-cises are also excellent.  
My favorite all-in-one active exercise in this case is Active Cobra.

Active Cobra  Creates extension in the upper back, active work externally rotating the the shoulders. On your belly, press yourself up into a cobra position with your elbows on the ground. Hands should be in golfers position, with thumbs up. Keep head neutral, sink between shoulder blades, actively pressing out with hands (but not going anywhere- like you are pressing against a wall. You will feel the work happening in the shoulder, while the head remains neutral. The final part is to frog the legs, bending the knees and pressing the feet together. This E-cise, (minus the neutral neck) is a full body extension E-cise! (Given that gravity is a constant pull into flexion, getting our muscles into extension is great for them AND our posture!) 
Ways of adding this in to a routine, would be static back, then the active cobra, finishing with standing arm circles...
For KIDS- flexed over their computer devices, have them switched from 

Be in the cobra position to read a book or play a video game. This dramatically reduces the negative posture. I like to read books on the beach this way. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment: contact Rachel Dixon at

Got knots in your shoulder blades?

Got knots in your shoulder blades?
Many people complain of knots and tension between their shoulder blades…
Why is it so common?

While every person is individual, many people have similar posture and movement habits. (Thanks computer devices!)
*Most* people with the tension and knots in their shoulders have a rounded upper back and shoulders more forward. We do a lot of movement from this forward, rounding area! 
The joint by joint purpose of the rib cage is supposed to be SLIGHTLY mobile and the scapula (your "wing bones") stable. In movement dominant shoulders when our scapulas wing out-and become unstable, the rib cage tends to get rounded and TIGHT!

If this area is really tight and rounded, go slowly so you don't get muscle spasm's. PASSIVE E-cises that use gravity to reduce the tension and makes a big difference here are:
Egoscue Static Back The entire back relaxes in the static back e-cise,  but gravity reduces the thoracic rounding. It’s passive- we lie there and gravity does the work. 
Directions: Lie down and place your lower legs on a chair. Your hips and knees should be at right angles. Your arms can rest by your side. Your head should be level- if your chin is pointing to the ceiling, place a small pillow behind your head to level it off. (And breathe!)
Egoscue Static Back Reverse Presses: After we reduce the thoracic rounding (a few minutes in static back) we add active reverse presses (pressing into the ground). This produces active work between the shoulder blades, further reducing the thoracic rounding.
Directions: In the static back position, put your arms straight out to the side, elbows on the ground and hands up the the ceiling like goal posts. Press your elbows down into the ground. (Note: you won’t go anywhere, but you will feel work happening between the shoulder blades.)
Do this daily or as needed to reduce rotation and passively align the upper thoracic area and scapula for a stress-free upper back!
Standing Arm Circles: This creates a more stable scapula so you can avoid the rounded thoracic area.
Stand with your arms out to your side- active gophers grip. With arms level, and thumbs pointing forward, make small, fast circles in one direction. Stop, point thumbs towards the back and repeat the arm circles in the other direction. If you feel your shoulders creep up to your ears- STOP. 

Other things you can do to help:
Foam roller: Reduce tension using a foam roller on the upper back. First lie vertical on it- from head to tail bone. Allow your hands to go out to the side, stretching your pecs. Breathe. Then change positions to lie horizontal on it, rolling the upper back to release tight upper back tissue. Stretch back (only the upper back- not the lower.) 

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Rachel Dixon at