Why Proper Rib-Cage Position Is Important

by Joy Keller on Jun 15, 2017

Body Lab

Proper thoracic-cage functioning sets the groundwork for healthy movement.

How many times do you cue proper rib-cage placement to clients or class attendees? And when you do, how often can students immediately understand your directions and find neutral posture from a flared rib position? More likely, awareness is lacking—you see some confusion—and if you assess technique on a regular basis, you no doubt notice how much dysfunction occurs in the thoracic region.

The rib cage protects the chest cavity, including the heart and lungs, and consists of long, curved bones with connections to the spinal vertebrae. Many rib bones connect to the sternum with costal cartilage, which are “segments of hyaline cartilage that allow the rib cage to expand during respiration” (Healthline 2015). The rib cage includes 12 paired rib bones. The first seven pairs are “true” and are connected to the costal cartilage. Of the other five sets, referred to as “false” (Healthline 2015), three connect to noncostal cartilage, and two are “floating” because they connect only to the spine.

Justin Price, MA, creator of The BioMechanics Method, which provides corrective exercise education for fitness professionals, says that while the rib cage serves many important functions, including “increasing the surface area of the torso so that upper-body muscles have an origin and an insertion,” its most important job is to help us breathe effectively.

“Due to musculoskeletal imbalances, stress, respiratory conditions, disease and injury, the primary muscles that expand and contract the rib cage (diaphragm and intercostals) can become weak and ineffective,” says Price. “As a result, other muscles in the neck and shoulder complex—such as the pectorals, scalenes and sternocleidomastoid [muscles]—take up the slack to help us breathe. Over time, [this] disrupts functioning of the entire thoracic spine, rib cage, shoulder girdle and neck, which leads to further dysfunction and, eventually, pain.”

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Healthline. 2015. BodyMaps. Accessed Mar. 2017. www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/ribs.

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About the Author

Joy Keller

Joy Keller IDEA Author/Presenter

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master. Joy joined IDEA Health & Fitness Association in 2002, and brought with her a wealth of information about how to fine-tune communication channels, after having spent her formative career years specializing in business-to-business journalism. Before she even graduated with honors from the respected University of Georgia journalism school, Joy was offered a job at one of the most successful trade publishing companies in the southeast, Shore Varrone, Inc. She made her mark in the automotive aftermarket industry as a creative thinker and journalist with an intuitive knack for researching and understanding niche audiences. Joy has worked on several titles, including Auto Trim & Restyling News, Truck Accessory News, Digital Output Magazine, Retail & Construction News, Miata magazine, Ford Racing, and many more. Her passion, however, lies with health and fitness. She was the associate editor of ACE Certified News while working at the American Council on Exercise, and transitioned that publication from a newsletter to a magazine. She has enjoyed 17 years at IDEA, where she has launched several publications, including the award-winning Inner IDEA Body-Mind Spirit Review, IDEA Pilates Today and IDEA Fit Business Success. Joy is a content creator and media 2.0 advocate who takes pride in discovering the unique information needs of qualified audiences, and she is dedicated to serving those needs while following the highest available standards.