The next two blogs are going to be dedicated to the process of breathing. So, let’s kick off and look at your ribs. I want to keep this blog relatively simple, while bringing about an appreciation for your ribs.
You have twelve ribs on either side of your chest. They surround your lungs, heart and a few organs. Your thorax is one massive chemistry center that pulls gas in and pushes it out. Your lungs grab hold of oxygen, critical to life, and push out carbon dioxide. The oxygen is attached to your red blood cells. Their job is to carry the oxygen through your body via a rather brilliant pump, otherwise known as your heart. Your factory needs protection, hence your ribs.
Four different sections.
Your ribs are broken up into four different sections. We are going to move upward in our examination of these ribs.
1. Your lowest three ribs – also known as the pelvic ribs.
These ribs are known as your floating ribs. They are attached to your spine at the back but then float freely up front. This configuration allows them a fair amount of movement. They play a vital role, in that they are linked to your hips via muscles such as your quadratus lumborum, abdominal obliques etc.
Unusual tightness in the muscles that are linked to these ribs will bring imbalance to the body. A dropped shoulder is often an indicator that something has tightened up too much between your hips and base of the thorax.
These three ribs protect your kidneys and adrenal glands.
- The next four ribs – also known as the abdominal ribs.These ribs are connected at the front of your body to the cartilage at the base of your sternum. They move less than your floating ribs but are allowed more movement than the ribs situated above them. If you put your hands on your sides and breathe in deeply you will feel these ribs move outward. Move your hands just a bit higher and to the next set of ribs and you will realize that they do not move much at all.
These ribs protect your spleen on the left, stomach in the middle and liver on the right.
- The next three ribs.
Ribs 3-5 are far more stable and attach directly to the sternum. They protect the all important heart. Your pectoral minor muscles are attached to these and so their stability helps with shoulder movement.
- The last two/ top two ribs.
These ribs are smaller and the most stable of all the ribs. The so called ‘neck ribs’ are attached to the upper vertebrae of the neck via the scalene muscles. Their relation with the neck is an important one, they have to stabilize the heavy head on top of the rather small neck.
– they can help with breathing. (There will a bit more about this in the next blog)
– the muscles above these two ribs can become tight during times of stress.The ribs at the back are attached to the spine. We will examine this in another blog.
Movement and your ribs.
Let’s look at a few movement considerations.
- Your rectus abdominis, (that’s the muscle that everyone wants a 6 pack on), attaches to the 5th rib with the fascia continuing all the way up to your collar bone. The fascia as mentioned here is also linked to your pectoral muscles. Shorten this structure by sitting too much or by focusing on strengthening your abdominals and forgetting your back, or anti gravity muscles, and this structure will shorten. Shortening of this front line will place your mid, upper back and shoulders under pressure. Your sternum will also place pressure on your stomach area which can lead to gastric issues. Stretch this area out by doing a warrior pose.
- As mentioned earlier, your ribs are attached to your spine. The join is a dynamic joint and needs movement. Movement of the ribs acts on the intervertebral disks and helps keep it lubricated. If you want a healthy back, well, at least the thoracic area, you need to breathe deeply on a regular basis.
- Your lower ribs are linked to your hips, primarily via your quadratus lumborum. Tighten up too much on the one side and watch your rib cage get pulled toward the area of tightness.
- According to Tom Myers, the lateral line of fascia which includes the fibularis, iliotibail band, glute medius, oblique muscles, intercostal muscles and sternocleidomastoid muscles can all tighten.
Cognizance to this line needs to be paid when dealing with people who have tightened in any of these structures. It is possible to have iliotibial band and neck issues at the same time. Remember: everything is linked. Hope this was interesting.Regards,Mike Roscoe.