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Cindy Thibodeau, August 28 2023

Unleashing Your Potential: The Transformative Power of Spinal Twists in Sports Performance & Injury Prevention

Sports, in all their diverse forms, unite athletes of every level through a shared pursuit of wellness and excellence. Whether you're a dedicated weekend warrior or a seasoned athlete, the journey to achieve your best is marked by challenges and success. Whether it's the sleek glide of a swimmer, the precise swing of a golfer, the lightning-fast reflexes of a tennis player, or the strategic maneuvers of a hockey player, each sport demands unique physical attributes.  

Amidst the focus on power, speed, and technique, there lies an often overlooked secret to unlocking peak performance and preventing injuries –the incredible potential of spinal twists or thoracic rotations!  In this article, we explore the mechanics behind these movements and their influence on sports like swimming, golf, tennis, and hockey. We'll also delve into the role of physiotherapists, in optimizing spinal mobility, and how techniques like manual therapy and dry needling can aid athletes of all levels. Lastly, we'll uncover the multifaceted exercise regimen that can propel athletes at the top of their game.

Spinal Twists: A Universal Mechanism in Sports

The spine serves as the central pillar of the body's movement and stability.  From weekend warriors to seasoned athletes, the power of spinal twists, particularly within the thoracic region, cannot be underestimated. This intricate movement facilitates the generation of power and strength, enhances coordination and flexibility, enabling athletes to execute complex maneuvers with finesse.

Swimming demands symmetrical rotation to optimize strokes, while golfers rely on thoracic twists for generating torque during their swings. Tennis players harness spinal mobility for powerful serves and swift lateral movements. In hockey, agility and quick directional changes are bolstered by a supple thoracic spine. A restricted thoracic spine can lead to inefficient movement patterns, repetitive strain injuries and even chronic pain in the neck, mid or low back, as well as the surrounding joints like the shoulders and hips, therefore compromising an athlete's performance over time.

Physiotherapists as Mobility Enablers

As Physiotherapists, we play a pivotal role in nurturing athletes' spinal mobility. Through a combination of hands-on techniques and tailored exercise plans, we target the joints and soft tissues responsible for spinal movement. Manual therapy techniques, including joint mobilizations and soft tissue manipulations, help clear tension and improve range of motion. By restoring optimal joint mechanics, physiotherapists pave the way for athletes to move with fluidity and ease.

The Role of IMS/Dry Needling

Incorporating Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) or Dry Needling into an athlete's regimen can be a game-changer, providing a whole other layer of relief and mobility enhancement.  IMS involves inserting thin needles into trigger points to stimulate muscle relaxation and blood flow, effectively releasing tension and promoting healing. Learn more about IMS Therapy!

Chronic muscle tension, often found in tight muscle bands along the spine, can hinder athletes' performance and lead to overuse injuries.  Whether you are new to your sport and seeking relief from post-exercise soreness or a seasoned athlete aiming to overcome the challenge of chronic muscle tightness this treatment approach is something worth exploring!

Crafting the Perfect Exercise Regimen

Exercise is the cornerstone of maintaining spinal health and enhancing athletic performance and transcends all skill levels. A well-rounded regimen should encompass various elements, including breath work, mobility exercises, and strength training.

Breathwork: Deep breathing exercises are a foundational component of spinal mobility. Diaphragmatic breathing through the full excursion of the breath not only oxygenates muscles but also aids in relaxing and mobilizing the spine. When the diaphragm is used unnecessarily for bracing strategies instead of optimal breathing patterns it holds onto a baseline of tension that creates unnecessary tension in the thoracic region, affecting your global mobility in this region.  

Check out the videos below to see the value of Breathwork:

Box breathing: Training your diaphragm in its full available range. 

Synchronizing breath with movement: Squat inhale down, exhale up. No breath holding ;)

Refining breath for maximum efficiency: Unilateral Shoulder press with landmine using breath for more power!

Mobility Exercises: In the realm of enhancing spinal mobility, the exercise regimen spans a spectrum that accommodates athletes of varying levels. This tailored approach recognizes the unique goals and aspirations of each athlete:

Static Stretch: Spinal Twist 

Dynamic Stretch: High kneeling Wall Spinal Twist

Dynamic Stretch: Thread the needle amped with Resistance Band to enhance more mobility and speed 

Strength Training: A strong core and supporting musculature are essential for maintaining spinal stability and preventing injuries. Compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, and rows engage the entire kinetic chain, promoting functional strength. When we work one-on-one with our clients here at MOOV Physiotherapy, we like to spice up these fundamental exercises in a way that will add a rotational challenge. For example doing a single leg deadlift holding onto a single dumbbell or kettlebell adds a rotation stability challenge to this conventional strength exercise.

Resisted Spinal Rotations: Wood chopping 

Key Takeaways

From the weekend warriors to the elite athletes, we are all on a unique journey of growth and self-discovery as we evolve in the sports we love.  Whether you're seeking enhanced flexibility, refined agility or simply looking to maintain longevity in your chosen sport, a spine primed for fluid and efficient movement should be an asset cherished by athletes of all levels.  

You too can harness the power of spinal mobility, elevate your performance and safeguard against injuries! Using our secret weapons, such as manual therapy and IMS and curated exercise regimens, let our MOOV physiotherapists act as your mentors and guides.  Ultimately, spinal mobility isn't just about excelling in sports; it's about nurturing a healthier, more fulfilling athletic journey.

Written by

Cindy Thibodeau


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