Whether it is pain and discomfort you are feeling in the mid to upper back area during an athletic activity or at your desk, our thoracic spine plays a vital role in how we perform and can prevent injuries in our low back, shoulders, and neck. Below are some of my favorite thoracic spine mobility and strengthening exercises. Long term fixes and relief are our goals for unlocking your upper back and thoracic area with these mobility exercises.
Get and Keep Mobility Gains – Quadruped Rotations
Maybe you have been trying to unlock your thoracic spine by arching over a foam roller, but still not finding much relief. Our thoracic spine can often become stiff in the rotary components of movement. Therefore for good spinal health, working through active assisted range of motion can reduce pain, increase mobility, and improve function. Try these quadruped rotations, which have the advantage of using a resistance band to gently load us into more range and encourage stability of the spine to keep the gains we’re making.
BENCH THORACIC + LAT STRETCH – Relief Commence!
I love this one because we’re able to address multiple areas all at once! The bench stretch helps us gain mobility through the shoulders and thoracic spine, as well as the triceps and lats. If you want to increase this mobility further, you can have a partner apply some light overpressure by pressing down between the shoulder blades. Grab a PVC pipe or stick with palms facing upward towards the ceiling. Tuck your tailbone slightly underneath to target more of a lat stretch. OR grab the PVC pipe with a wide grip (palms still facing up) and elbows tucked in to bias a flexion/external rotation stretch (great for those whose shoulder dump forward on kipping pull ups).
Lying on your side with your top hip flexed up to 90 deg (you can use a foam roller underneath the knee to lock into place), work through this rotational movement to work on multiple angles of the thoracolumbar regions. Hit both sides!
OVERHEAD OPENER – Thoracic Extension/Shoulder Flexion
Want a really nice, deep stretch? This is one of my favorite go-to’s for opening up my chest, shoulders, and thoracic spine. You can include a partner in this one as well! Have someone apply gentle overpressure in between the shoulder blades to work more thoracic spine extension.
GOBLET PRESS EXERCISE – Mobility + Strength Combo
With new mobility equals new responsibility. Which means, let’s load and strengthen our spine! This one is much more challenging than it may look. Attack thoracic mobility and strength at the same time with a goblet squat and press combination. To perform, grab a light to moderate weight kettlebell and press overhead with elbows staying tight (avoid letting those elbows flare outward).
Looking for more thoracic relief exercises and mobility or help long-term results with shoulder, neck, or back pain? We’ve got you covered. Schedule an appointment today with our Alpharetta, GA Onward Physical Therapy location!