Thoracic Rings (Ribs) Approach

Thoracic Rings – What are they?

The Rib cage is made up of thoracic rings. A thoracic ring is made up of two ribs connected to the breast bone (sternum) and the spinal vertebrae forming a ring.

Thoracic Ring = 2 x Ribs + breastbone + vertebrae forming a ring (marked in green).

There are 10 thoracic rings in the rib cage and two floating ribs at the bottom (they don’t complete a ring). The rib cage is not solid or fixed like a bird-cage, each ring rotates and moves on the ring above and below, a bit like a slinky or hula slinky. There are 13 joints in one ring and 139 joints in the rib cage. It is a mobile part of the body!

The Thoracic Rings provide attachment for muscles from the shoulder, neck, abdominals, and lower back. They provide bone for muscles to pull our skeleton in different directions, they enable us to move, to breathe, and link the upper and lower limbs. Through muscular connections, misalignment, or tightness in one or more of the thoracic rings areas elsewhere in the body can be affected. Sometimes this is far away from the source eg your feet.

How do they affect us?

If one or a few rings are stiff (lacking in rotation one or both ways), or pulled more to one side by tight muscles, it can affect our overall balance and result in extra forces elsewhere in the body to compensate. Poor balance can result. This is particularly common when the ribcage is curved sideways (scoliosis) or forward (kyphosis). Foot pain, knee pain, low back pain, shoulder pain and even headaches can be the result of thoracic ring imbalance.

There are muscles that connect to the upper ribs to the neck and head. If there is a twist in one or more ribs this will affect the neck. For example when a deep pectoral muscle gets tight from using a computer mouse, it restricts a few ribs and the neck has to compensate. The pain can come out above or below where the real problem is…the rib!

A Physio trained in detecting thoracic ring dysfunction can teach you how to very quickly change your pattern of movement to relieve neck pain and restore movement if this is the cause.

“The thorax plays a role in optimal function of the whole of the body and optimal health of the whole person.”

Dr. LJ Lee, Canada.

The Thorax or Rib Cage Region has 3 Major Functions:

Treatment involves identifying the particular rings that are not moving as they should and assessing the cause of that dysfunction.

Once the rings are identified, the muscles or joints responsible are identified and released or mobilised (hands-on treatment), you are taught how to control them yourself. This is gentle technique using specialised skills of a specially trained therapist. A-J is qualified up to level 4 doing this technique.

The thoracic rings are realigned gently by the therapist’s hands and you are taught cues guiding you how to correct them yourself.

First tight muscles released, the bones are realigned,  and cues given to activate muscle patterns to allow the body to return to normal movement.

Here at The Physio Yoga Clinic (prev Physio Body & Sole), Crows Nest we treat thoracic rings and provide ongoing exercise support and tips for managing your postural and muscular corrections yourself. Our aim is to empower you to help yourself.

*Tensegrity: the property of a skeletal structure having continuous tension structures such as muscles and ligaments, and discontinuous compression structures such as bones, so that each structure performs in a connected manner producing a rigid form (ie it doesn’t collapse). This enables us to reach up to a top shelf to get an object down, or throw or kick a ball and the force to be transferred.