As part of our Health & Wellness series @PG, we asked local climber and chiropractor Natasha Barnes to share her thoughts on spinal health and preventing climbing-related injuries.

In her first article, Climber Posture, Dr. Barnes gave us 2 ways to test for dysfunctional posture.

She also presented a very convincing case on why postural health should be something ALL climbers and athletes focus on, perhaps even on a daily basis!  

Now in Part 2 we are given the tools to start addressing these imbalances! First step – MOBILITY.

Scroll down to get started! 

 ** The information in these articles are submitted by various  professionals in the industry who are not employed by or representatives of Planet Granite.   If you have an injury or more questions regarding the topics addressed on our blog,  please consult a qualified medical practitioner.  Before beginning any fitness program, you should have a complete physical examination by your physician.**


Proper postural alignment is the basis of all movement. If your posture sucks, your movement suffers and you might get hurt.

Fix your posture and you’ve just taken a huge step in unlocking the full athletic potential of your body! You may also avoid some injuries along the way.

Gray Cook, the founder of Functional Movement Systems, talks about a “joint-by-joint approach” when it comes to the body.

Every joint in the body has a purpose. Some joints are designed for stability, while others are designed for mobility. When a joint is forced, injured, or restricted, it will affect the joints above and below it. Mobility and stability are organized in the body in an every-other joint fashion. The ankles need mobility, the knees require stability, hips need mobility, lumbar spine (low back) needs stability, thoracic spine (mid-back) needs mobility, scapula (shoulder blade) needs stability, and the gleno-humeral joint (shoulder) needs mobility.

The thoracic spine has a tendency towards stiffness. Poor posture is the main cause of this. When the thoracic spine becomes stiff, the areas above and below are affected.

When the thoracic spine is restricted, the scapula is placed in a compromised position. A scapula in a compromised position affects the rotator cuff. If you looked at your shoulder pain as just shoulder pain you may focus only on shoulder correctives.

You may never work on your thoracic spine and will wonder why your shoulder pain is not going away!

*Are you starting to understand why you need to pay attention to posture?

*Did you fail any of the self tests in Part 1 of this blog?  Even if you didn’t you might want to keep reading so that you can learn some things you can do to help prevent future injury.

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Say hello to your new best friend, the double lacrosse ball. Just tape two lacrosse balls together width wise and length wise with wide climbing tape.

Where do we start? MOBILITY.

Corrective work needs to be done everyday. In Dr. Kelly Starret’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, he says, “When it comes to mobility there are no off days.” To make change in the affected tissues consistent work must be done. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Fifteen minutes a day is enough!

Lacrosse ball smash #1: 

For this drill you will need two lacrosse balls taped together or a foam roller.

  1. Place lacrosse balls at the start of your thoracic spine (the area just below your neck).
  2. Fold your arms across your body (give your self a big hug!).
  3. Start to bridge over the balls holding for a second then returning to the starting position.
  4. Spend some time at each segment working down your back until you reach your lumbar spine.

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Lacrosse ball smash #2: 

 For this drill you will need a single lacrosse ball and a wall. 

  1. Place a lacrosse ball in your upper pec area while leaning your chest into the wall.
  2. Place your arm in external rotation and roll below the clavicle between your shoulder and sternum.

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Thoracic spine mobility drill: EXTENSION

For this drill you will need a bench and a dowel. 

  1. Sit on your knees in front of a bench sitting back on your heels.
  2. Place your elbows on the bench (optional: hold a dowel in both of your hands).
  3. Gently round your mid-back and hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Then arch your mid-back and stick your chest out towards the ground, hold for at least 5 seconds.
  5. Return to the rounded position and repeat for 10 sets. Remember to breath!
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Starting position, rounded.

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Ending position, extended.

Thoracic spine mobility drill: ROTATION

  1. Start on the ground on your side.
  2. Stack your shoulders so they are lined up.
  3. Bring your top arm overhead and behind you.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 reps
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Remember to breath!
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Starting position.

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Ending position. I’m tight!

Great! Now that we’ve gotten mobilization out of the way, how do we get our postural muscles working properly?…


**REMEMBER: Do not hesitate to contact a professional if you’re struggling with any pain or discomfort brought on by bad posture or movement patterns!**

Natasha bio picture
Dr. Barnes graduated in 2012 from Palmer Chiropractic West and is currently practicing at Chiro-Medical Group in San Francisco. Her practice focuses on sports medicine and injury prevention. She takes an evidence-based, functional approach to patient care. She utilizes an active care model that is patient focused and outcome oriented, empowering patients to participate in their care.

Dr. Barnes has been a professional athlete since 2001 and still participates in national and international level rock climbing competitions year round. She is sponsored by PrAna, Five Ten, Revolution and Smith Optics. She is a former National Champion, a Teva Games gold medalist and has earned a spot on the US World Cup Bouldering and Sport Climbing Team multiple years. She knows what it is like training and performing at a high level and dealing with injury.

Follow Dr. Natasha Barnes on Twitter and visit her professional climbing blog here.