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Improving Thoracic Mobility

By Lewis Clarke

Blog by Lewis Clarke – Osteopath at Pea Green Physio

The thoracic spine can often be forgotten about when it comes to common aches and pains. Generally we will find that people will either suffer from neck or lower back issues. Now unless you are afflicted with a specific thoracic spine issue, we tend to only focus on the area that hurts (neck/lower back).

Now, one of the key factors for spinal health and longevity is mobility thorough-out the entire spine. Think, if you will, about a bike chain, and imagine how the chain moulds around the cog-wheel. Each link in the chain will move slightly to perform the entire motion. This is similar to that of our spine. Indeed each area of the spine cervical, thoracic and lumbar, have their own unique plane of motion. Cervical being mainly rotation (turning), Thoracic being lateral flexion (side bending), and Lumbar being flexion/extension (bending/arching backwards).

In manual therapy, we will generally see the lack of thoracic mobility contribute to the irritation to the other areas. So below are a couple of useful thoracic mobility exercises to help decrease the load and stress onto the other areas.

  1. Thoracic Extensions

Lying across the foam roller, knees bent and hands supporting head. Arch your mid back over the roller, repetitively. Be careful not to load the lower back, if it tightens then you are using it too much.

Hands against the wall as per this picture. Your force direction should be following the blue lines. Make sure you engage the mid back to try and get your chest lower to the floor. The back and pelvis remains in this position and should help protect it.


  1. Thoracic Rotations

Kneeling on the floor, hands out just in front of you. With the head following the moving hand, try and use the mid back to rotate the trunk around. Keep bum on heels to protect the lower back.


  1. Chest Stretching

A very simple yet affective exercise. The idea here is to promote shoulder retraction (opening) via stretching the muscle around your chest (pec minor/major, coracobrachialis and the short head of the biceps). All apart from pec major attach to the front of the shoulder blade (scapula) via the coracoid process. Contraction of these muscles will pull the scapular forward and thus de-stabilising it and make the shoulders round forward. The stretch pictured here, is to prevent this and to enable a better shoulder position.

Please try and use a foam roller along the length of your spine and hold both arms horizontally, with a 90 degree bend in your elbows. The gravitational pull toward the ground should be enough to stretch your chest. Please hold this for 5minutes.

If your thoracic spine is particularly stiff and needs a helping hand getting mobile, we can offer a variety of mobilisation, manipulation and soft tissue treatments here at Pea Green Physio to help you to achieve your optimal mobility.


To book in with Lewis, Ben, Jav, Helen or Caroline call 01869241411 or email [email protected]


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no more ouch... give the team a call: 01869 241411 or
pop us an email: [email protected] and we’ll get back to you

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