Written by Naura Ben-Hassen, Pelvic Health Specialist, Kinesiologist, Osteopath, and Fitness and Movement Expert

Photography by Paul Buceta

Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra

PART TWO of a six-part series helping you regain your body and move freely without pain, incontinence, and discomfort in your core.

Everything in the body is inter-connected and when we lack mobility in one part, it creates compensation and has a domino effect on all the structures above and below. One relationship that is often overlooked is the connection between thoracic spine mobility and pelvic floor dysfunctions. In recent years, we have started to recognize the pivotal role that the thoracic spine plays in influencing pelvic floor function. Exploring the importance of thoracic spine mobility for pelvic floor health can help you learn how addressing this connection can contribute to improved overall functions.

Understanding the Thoracic Spine-Pelvic Floor Link

The thoracic spine, located in the middle and upper back, is designed to provide stability and support for the upper body while allowing for controlled movement. Conversely, the pelvic floor, a complex system of muscles and connective tissue at the base of the spine, supports the organs within the pelvis and plays a key role in functions such as bladder and bowel control, sexual function, and overall pelvic stability.

The thoracic spine and pelvic floor are not isolated entities; rather, they function as integral parts of a kinetic chain. When there is dysfunction or limited mobility in the thoracic spine, it can have a cascading effect on the pelvic floor, leading to a range of issues such as incontinence, pelvic pain, and even sexual dysfunction.

The Impact of Poor Thoracic Spine Mobility

Increased Intra-Abdominal Pressure

Limited mobility in the thoracic spine can contribute to poor posture and altered breathing patterns. This, in turn, may lead to increased intra-abdominal pressure, placing additional stress on the pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this pressure can contribute to the development or exacerbation of pelvic floor dysfunctions.

Altered Biomechanics

The body functions optimally when each segment works harmoniously with the others. Restricted thoracic spine mobility disrupts this balance, causing compensations in movement patterns. These compensations may overload the pelvic floor muscles, leading to tension, weakness, or imbalances that contribute to dysfunction.

Muscular Imbalances 

A lack of thoracic spine mobility often correlates with muscle imbalances in the surrounding areas, including the shoulders, neck, and lumbar spine. These imbalances can create a chain reaction of dysfunction, impacting the pelvic floor and contributing to issues such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.

Addressing Thoracic Spine Mobility for Pelvic Floor Health

Thoracic Mobility Exercises

Exercises that I prescribe to improve thoracic spine mobility include: rotational stretches, thoracic extensions, and exercises to promote overall spinal flexibility. Incorporating these exercises into a regular routine can contribute to better posture and movement patterns.

One of my favorite exercises is called the “Open Book” and it’s great for improving mobility through the spine, particularly through the thoracic region. This exercise also provides a  wonderful stretch for the chest and it’s great for shoulder mobility.

Your spine loves to twist, so you will feel instant results! The best part is you can do this anywhere, including in bed so it can be a great starter to your day. Here’s how:

A. Lie on your side, 90 degrees at your hips and your knees. (You may rest your head on a pillow if you need neck support.) Start with both arms extended out in front of you. 

B. Raise your top hand toward the ceiling and then eventually open all the way to where you are looking over your shoulder.

C. Your hips should stay still throughout this movement. Perform this movement five times each side.

Open Book: Try this exercise for improved mobility through the spine, especially through the thoracic region.

Alignment Matters

Proper posture is synonymous with maintaining the body’s natural alignment. When the spine is correctly aligned, the pelvic floor muscles are optimally positioned to provide support. Conversely, poor posture, such as slouching or overarching the lower back, can lead to misalignment and compromise the effectiveness of the pelvic floor. One simple cue is to stack your shoulders over your rib cage and your rib cage over your pelvis.

Restack in 5

Take just five minutes a day to RESTACK your posture with these 5 steps and you will be on your way to optimal core synergy:

1. Soften your knees, this helps with pelvic alignment

2. Stack your head on top of your spine, above your shoulders

3. Stack your shoulders over your ribs and soften your jaw

4. Stack your ribs over your hips

5. Avoid gripping your tailbone / tightening glutes or drawing belly button to spine

Breathing Techniques

Breathing exercises can play a significant role in enhancing thoracic spine mobility and promoting pelvic floor health. In particular, 360 breathing helps engage the diaphragm and encourages optimal movement in the thoracic spine (as discussed in Part 1 of this series, which you can refer to for more breathing exercises).

Your pelvic floor doesn’t work in isolation and to regain proper function, it needs a multidimensional approach that considers the interconnectedness of the body’s various components, fostering overall well-being and improving the quality of life for those experiencing pelvic floor dysfunctions. Recognizing the intricate relationship between thoracic spine mobility and pelvic floor dysfunctions is a crucial step in restoring pelvic floor function and overall well being. By addressing limitations in thoracic spine mobility through targeted exercises, postural corrections, and breathing techniques, women can positively impact their pelvic floor health. 

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