The Importance of Thoracic Mobility

Back Pain | Spine and Pelvis | Synergy Solutions

PUBLISHED: February 8, 2020

Its time to talk about the THORAX – this is the large area that sits between our lower back and our neck. A commonly under-treated part of the body.

It is one of the largest and most important regions of the body. It contains many joints, muscles, organs and nerves. Dysfunction here can negatively influence many other regions especially the low back and the neck due to the many connections that exist between these systems. Many times, people will have low back pain or neck pain, but the driver for the problem is actually in the thorax.

A healthy thoracic spine has

  1. Mobility and suppleness
  2. Good rotation at each spinal segment

Stiffness, on the other hand, is a sign of “dysfunction”. Stiffness can occur for many reasons including:

  • Previous falls or trauma
  • Sustained or repetitive postures
  • Previous surgeries or infections (to name a few.)

If stiffness stays in the body for long periods of time, the body is forced to compensate via surrounding joints and tissues. These are the tissues that will become symptomatic and start to become painful.

Take for example, the simple task of forward bending to pick up something off the floor. What should happen, is that each spinal segment and its associated ribs should slide over the top of the segment below, so that each level contributes a small amount to the overall movement. The muscles and neural tissues should slide against their fascia, and also within the vertebral canal.

If any of these components are restricted, the associated spinal segments will move as a “block”. So, rather than each joint taking its fair share of the load, the full load is now taken by the segments below this “block”. Eventually this excessive load will wear out this joint, and the patient will start to experience some pain and local inflammation.

Stiffness through the thorax can be a contributing factor in low back and neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, sciatica and more. Each person will have a unique presentation and will require a thorough physiotherapy assessment to determine the cause of their specific symptoms.


My job as a physiotherapist is to identify precisely where any stiffness is. I will then apply the correct manual therapy techniques to release the restricted tissues, and restore even load sharing. This allows the over-loaded segment to heal.

Physio will also advise you on specific exercises to improve moblity. One of my favourite exercises for thoracic rotation, is the bow and arrow stretch which you will see below.


Maintaining good thoracic mobility is a great way to prevent problems. Simply going for a daily walk or better yet, a jog or a swim is a great way of promoting a healthy thoracic spine. These activities have the effect of mobilising the trunk into rotation. Yoga and Pilates are other great forms of exercise which promote good spinal moblity.

Rotation is the key and most important movement of the thorax. It is one of the few rotational centres of the body. It was designed to rotate, so we need to make sure that it can do just that.

Remember, move it or lose it!

If you are struggling with back pain, and think that Physio could help you, get in touch today. Synergy Physio Co is dedicated to providing the highest quality Physiotherapy. Our focus is on identifying the root cause of your pain to get you the best results! FIND OUT MORE or BOOK ONLINE

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Nathan Cooper

Practice Principal

Nathan is the Practice Principal at Synergy Physio Co. He has almost 15 years working in musculoskeletal physiotherapy. He is passionate about the role of high quality manual therapy as a part of successful rehabilitation.

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