Everything you need to know about the Thoracic Spine!


The Thoracic Spine is made up of 12 vertebrae or segments in the middle of the spine. It is the connector between the lumbar spine (lower back) and the cervical spine (neck). It also connects with the ribs which attach to your shoulder blades! 

Dysfunction or stiffness in the thoracic can be responsible for:

  • Pain between the shoulders
  • Upper back stiffness or the feeling of being stuck in a rounded posture
  • Headaches 
  • Limited arm range of motion 
  • Radiating pain around your side or through the chest 
  • Limited ability to take a deep breathe 

Posture plays a big role in contributing to dysfunction in the Thoracic. Especially now, as many people are working from home, in non-ergonomic set ups, and spending longer amounts of time in sedentary activities with poor postures (binging movies/tv shows, gaming, reading). A simple and easy way to reduce the likelihood of developing dysfunction is increasing & maintaining good mobility in the thoracic spine. 

Here are some great exercises which can easily be done at home, contact us if you need help finding helpful equipment!


Cat Camel














Start on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position.

Arch your back, lifting your head up and pushing your tail bone out, making a dish with your spine.

Hold this position for about 2 seconds.

Next, bend your back up by tucking your head and tail bone in and pulling your belly button in towards your spine, making a curve through your back.

Hold this position, and then repeat.


Thread the Needle


















Start on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position.

Take one hand off the floor and reach in and through the space between your other/opposite arm and leg.

Allow your body and head to follow, moving your shoulder down towards the floor as your hand reaches through.

You should feel a stretch down your side, your shoulder blade and neck. Hold this position, and then return to the starting position.

Reach your arm out to the other side, and then up towards the ceiling.
Follow the movement of your hand with your head, twisting in the other direction to look up towards the ceiling.

Hold this position, and then repeat the sequence.


Arm Opening

Lie on your side with your head resting on a small cushion.

Bend both legs at a 45 degree angle to the hips, keeping them together and straighten your arms out in front of your body with one arm on top of the other.

INHALE: raise your top arm up towards the ceiling, followed by your head and upper body

EXHALE: continue rotating the spine, as you lower your straight arm further down

INHALE: bring your arm back, reaching to the ceiling

EXHALE: lower your arm down to the starting position

Allow your head to follow the movement of your arm.

Hold the stretch and engage your abdominals as you bring your arm back over and down to the starting position.


Crook Lie with a Heat Pack











Heat a wheat bag or heat pack in the microwave as per instructions.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can rest your head on a small cushion for comfort.

Place the wheat bag or heat bag length ways along your thoracic spine or the centre of your upper/middle back.

You can place a towel in between you and the wheat bag or heat pack to reduce the danger of a burn or skin irritation.

Lay flat on this and open the arms in a ‘T’ position and relax here for 10-15 minutes. Focus on deep relaxed breathing. 


Thoracic Extension on a Foam Roll/Towel













Place a cylindrical foam roll across the floor.

Lie back with the foam roll running across the level of your spine that you would like to stretch.

Wrap your hands around the back of your head to support the weight.

Ensure you do not pull your head forward, keep it in line with the rest of your spine.

Inhale, then as you exhale allow your body to relax backward over the foam roll.

Hold this position in a stretch, continuing to focus on your breathing.

Maintain this position for roughly 10 breaths.

Reposition the foam roll to the next segment you wish to stretch.

If you do not have a foam roll or it is too hard, try a thick rolled up towel. 


Thoracic Rolling using a Foam Ball, Spikey Ball or Lacrosse Ball
















Rolling backward on a spherical Foam Ball (generally 6”), a Spikey Ball or Lacrosse Ball are also great options to incorporate in your daily routine.

Using the Foam Ball, this can be done lying on the ground rolling backward along the thoracic or centre of your upper/middle back. Much like the cylindrical foam roll you can also hold at the level of your spine that you would like to stretch.

The Foam Ball can also be used like the Spikey Ball and Lacrosse Ball against a wall.

Place the ball at the same level of spinal stiffness or muscle tightness in the Thoracic or upper/middle back.

Manoeuvre the ball against the wall by pressing your body weight into the ball along your stiff or tight tissue. You may find a particularly tender spot which you may like to hold the ball on for a few minutes before continuing on.  


If these techniques don’t ease your discomfort, or, if your symptoms persist, please book an appointment with your Physiotherapist.  Your Physiotherapist can perform some manual therapies or guide you in some targeted home exercises using therabands or weights. 

 Alternatively, check out our LivePhysio – Online Physio option!

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