Although not as common as either cervical (neck) or lumber (lower back) chiropractic spinal adjustments, thoracic spinal adjustments can still treat a variety of conditions. The thoracic spinal region encompasses the middle of the spine, with 12 individual vertebrae (T1 to T12). Perhaps the most unique feature of the thoracic spine is that it is the anchor point for the ribs, so therefore helps to encase and protect vital organs such as the heart and lungs. It also makes the thoracic spine far more stable than the cervical or lumbar spinal regions.
What Conditions Can Thoracic Adjustments Treat?
Perhaps the most common reason for needing a thoracic adjustment is due to pulmonary issues. A particularly bad bout of bronchial spasms from coughing or sneezing can not only dislocate the ribs, but push the thoracic spine out of alignment.
Poor posture may be another condition that a thoracic adjustment can treat. Whether it is slouching, hunching, or poor sitting posture, it can all put a tremendous load on the spine. This can lead to a stiff thoracic region because poor posture can affect everything from how we lift heavy objects to how we move. Somewhat related to poor posture, scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) will also affect the thoracic region. This will also end up affecting movement and flexibility.
Shoulder injuries, particularly those involving the scapula, may also lead to trouble with the thoracic spine. Many athletes, from professionals to weekend warriors, have at one time or another suffered a shoulder injury, whether from throwing a softball incorrectly to tripping and landing on the shoulder during a game of basketball.
Shingles is also related to the thoracic region of the spine. It is a highly contagious viral condition related to chicken pox that will lie dormant for many years before flaring up. Patients will have a distinctive pattern of red, painful blisters forming a ring around the body from the middle of the thoracic spine around to the sternum (breastbone).
What Does the Research Say?
An article in the Sept. 14, 2004 issue of BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders examined the use of thoracic spinal manipulation and postural retraining on a group of 19 patients with scoliosis. Patients received treatment for four to six weeks. The amount of curvature was measured before the patients underwent treatment, and then again after all treatments were finished. By the end of the treatment period, the amount of curvature had been reduced by 17 degrees, considered to be a significant amount.
Another article in the November 2004 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapies discussed the use of a number of different treatments to treat a patient suffering from rotator cuff impingement, in which he could not fully move his rotator cuff without pain and stiffness. The patient underwent a number of related treatments, including soft tissue therapy, rehabilitation exercises, and both cervical and thoracic spinal adjustments. At the end of the treatment period, the patient was able to freely move the rotator cuff without any difficulties.
As an athlete himself, Dr. Nathen Horst understands the various types of injuries that may lead to the need for a thoracic spinal adjustment. He can help both elite athletes as well as the patient who is having posture problems.
To schedule an appointment for a spinal adjustment, contact Horst Chiropractic today.