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Thoracic Spine Mobility Improves a Dancer’s Arabesque

A dancer complaining of low back pain with activities that require the mobility in the lumbar spine and thoracic spine, such as an arabesque or attitude to the back, require a thorough assessment.

If appropriate, educating the dancer through different movement strategies can help limit the strain into their low backs with these positions and movements.

Depending on the acuity of the dancers symptoms, you may be able to start by assessing the thoracic rotation contribution in arabesque.  If this is not possible, begin assessment of rotation with the dancer sitting and arms folded in front to gain an idea of their range and movement characteristics; i.e: Is their thoracic spine moving or are they protracting one scapula or retracting the other scapula, do they side bend or lateral shear to mimic rotation? The dancer should have about 45 degrees for thoracic rotation to the right and left.

Pictured on the right is thoracic rotation with the arms folded in front of the chest demonstrating no compensations. Pictured on the left is thoracic rotation with the arms folded in front of the chest demonstrating a compensation into a left shear (arrow).

Depending on the movement strategy they utilize, assess their ability to isolate the rotation to their thoracic spine. Use visual or tactile cuing to teach them the motion you are asking for.  Depending on their difficulty to perform this motion, you can add different arm positions, such as fifth position or second position, to challenge their proprioception. The dancer can perform this exercise 15-20 repetitions up to 3 times/day.  Once the dancer can demonstrate this movement pattern, integrate the improved thoracic spine and rib cage mobility it into their arabesque!

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