Thoracic Spine Mobility for Rounded Shoulders


If you sit at a desk all day, or even sit for multiple hours at a time…this thoracic spine mobility is for you! You know that position you are in when your shoulders round forward, your neck sticks out and your upper back starts to hunch over (maybe you’re doing it now?) and then you get up and find a sort of stiffness in your upper back. Yeah, this is for that. Those rounded/tight shoulders that make it hard to turn around and grab something from your back seat? Or that stiff upper back that makes it nearly impossible for you to properly sit up straight. It is important to remember that quality of life is dependent on MOVEMENT. You can be strong, have a million dollars and the perfect family, but if you can’t move…you’re miserable no matter what. That is why it is important to keep up with mobility, so that you DON’T end up the hunched over man/woman. So, thoracic spine mobility for rounded shoulders, stiff back and “turtle” neck.

Thoracic Spine Health

Your thoracic spine is made up of twelve vertebrae (T1-T12). This make sup the mid region of the back, and each vertebrae attaches to the ribs, making it very stable and structural supported. But, this also means that when we lose mobility in our T spine, we can also cause much greater problems like a lack of shoulder mobility.

Because the thoracic spine is attached to the ribcage, it is unlikely you will ever end up with disk issues like a bulge or a slip. This is good news, but it also means a tight muscle or quick movement could pull a rib out of place. Pros and cons, yah know? And let me just tell you, having ribs pulled out of place is no joke. I have done it by 1. my back needing to be adjusted but also 2. from coughing so hard being sick. So, mobility is key so this doesn’t happen to you!

We should be getting about 45 to 60 degrees of rotation from the thoracic spine. If we’re closed there and can’t rotate to the thoracic spine, the burden falls down lower in the spine.

As far as shoulder mobility goes, think about your ability to grab something off the top shelf, or reach behind you. Those are all movements that originate in the thoracic spine, and can therefore also be decreased because of lack of mobility. The most common mobility issue we see is rounded shoulders  which comes from pushing the thoracic spine backwards in an attempt to…type at a computer or write. Most of America spends about 11 hours a day with electronics…from computers to cell phones to TVs. Which is sad, right? But, right now that is the day and age and it isn’t going to change any time soon. That means, we need to adapt. We need to make sure we are getting movement in and staying mobile, so that 5-10 years down the road we aren’t stiff and miserable!

So let’s get into a few of my favorite thoracic spine mobility movements/stretches! You can even grab yourself a yoga block like I use in a few of these stretches.

yoga block

Thoracic Spine Mobility

1: Childs Pose T Spine Rotation

• Get into childs pose position with hips set back on heels.

• Place one hand on the floor in front of you and one hand behind your head.

• Rotate through your T spine to open elbow up, attempting to look at the ceiling. Try not to move your hips to compensate.


2: Open Book

• Lay on your side with your arms out front, stacked directly on your shoulder.

• Top knee bends and is placed on the floor, while the bottom arm grabs behind the knee.

• Open up the top hand so both shoulders (should) lay flat on the floor. Keeping the top knee also on the floor.


3: Runners Stretch T

• Start with one knee down, and one foot up. Stretch forward to get a deeper stretch in the hip flexor (win, win here).

• Place both hands on the floor on the inside of your foot. Open up the inside hand towards the ceiling to make a T.

• Look towards the ceiling and hold 10-15 seconds before switching sides.

4: Thoracic Extension

• Find any kind of ball roller, block etc.

• Place it at the middle of your back, right near the shoulder blades.

• You can place hands behind head or over chest and then extend backwards. This movement is meant to just be held.

• This is great for counteracting our regular rounded position and will actually help the ligaments shift to create a new “normal” if done often enough.


5: Propped Elbow Shoulder Flexion

• Grab a chair, bench…window sill, for this one!

• Start kneeling with elbows on your prop. Slowly start to sink your hips back towards your heels so that your hands start to shift behind the head.

• You want to sink as far as you can to get movement through the thoracic spine, and also the shoulders/lats get stretched out too!

• Hold for 10-15 seconds before relaxing and repeating!

How Often Should You Do Mobility

Every day. Every day you should be doing some type of movement, include a few warm up or cool down mobility drills in there and you are SET! It is so easy to get down on the floor while you are watching tv and do a few movements. I would recommend doing at least 5-10 repetitions on each side for each movement, and trying to get a nice long hold. You don’t want to rush the movement, we are trying to teach our bodies to get back into normal range of motion, and the slow controlled movement is the best way to do that!


If you think you are someone who has good range of motion (which can be true) here is a test for you: get into position for the first stretch. If you cannot open your elbow up straight towards the ceiling and SEE the ceiling…you are lacking range of motion! Just a quick way for some tangible feedback. I hope you enjoy these mobility blog posts, because they are so important. You have to keep moving in all planes of motion (not just forward/backwards, and up/down). You need rotation and crawling and lateral movements. So take a look at your routine, and make sure you are moving for the future!


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Haley Rowe March 30, 2019