A few posts back I talked about alignment and posture and how when someone is "standing up straight" they may be doing more harm than good. One reason, and it is a biggie, is that to hide their thoracic kyphosis (the curve of the upper spine between the low back and neck) they thrust their ribs forward. Let's discuss what this looks like, how to tell if you do it, and why it is bad.
Go stand with your back to a wall, your feet a few inches away, and your butt touching the wall.
If your upper back is not touching the wall you, my friend, are a rib thruster. Like me in this picture on the right. It isn't the best representation, but you can see my back is not in the same plane as my butt.
This was a very uncomfortable position for me! My back was hurting just waiting for my son to take the picture. This is an indication as to why it is bad, even if you aren't feeling it.
What you want to do is bring your ribs into your body, where they belong. Your abs will need to do this.
Find your hip bones. Find the front of your ribcage. These should be in the same plane. Your pubic bone should be lined up with these as well, for that matter. But we will focus on one thing at a time.
Now your upper back should touch the wall behind you, like the picture on the left. The bigger the curve here is your thoracic kyphotic curve. You have been hiding this, but we all have it. The degree to which you have it has to do with a few factors and can usually be corrected. Again, that is another story and another blog post.
So, why is this a problem? You look lined up in the first instance. The first problem is spinal compression. When you thrust your ribs forward it forces your spine into an abnormal position causing compression. This leads to tension in the upper back or sharp pain. It can also lead to the dreaded slipped disk. This compression isn't just contained to the thoracic spine. Remember the spine is all connected. When you alter one part it will affect everything above and below.
Another problem rib thrusting creates is diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is when the linea alba, the connective tissue running straight down between your abdominal muscles, widens. This is a pretty good visual:
Women who have been pregnant may have this problem too. It becomes more likely with each pregnancy. It becomes impossible to fix if you are thrusting your ribs.
To check for diastasis recti you should lie on your back and poke into your belly just below your navel until you find the abdominal muscles. There will be a gap between them, but if it is more than a finger or two wide you have diastasis recti. Check your rib thrusting.
Something standing between you and a non-rib-thrusting life is going to be abdominal strength. If you have diastasis recti crunches are NOT the answer! Crunches aren't really the answer either way, but especially if you have diastasis recti. I do have many things you can do to help keep the ribs from trying to be first everwhere you go and to close the gap between your abdominals. If I can't help you I know a physical therapist that can.
That's all for now. Have a fantastic first week of spring!