Fostering body awareness, acceptance, and improved performance.

Thoracic Mobility – Twist Your Way to Better Posture

Where is your thoracic spine?

Courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Patient Guide
Courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Patient Guide

Many of you Pilates fans will know this. The thoracic spine resides your upper back. These are the 12 vertebrae between your neck and your low back. Your ribcage – and by extension, your shoulders – attach to this part of the spine.

These thoracic vertebrae are shaped in a way that allows movement – extension, flexion, sidebending and especially rotation. The lumbar vertebrae are shaped differently and resist rotation. They are sturdier in order support the weight of the upper body.

Plainly said, your upper back is more mobile and your low back is more stiff.

Why move your thoracic spine?

  • Better Posture – If you’re able to move your upper back, it’ll be easier to access more upright and healthy sitting and standing positions.
  • Better Shoulder Movement – If your thoracic spine is more flexible and upright, your scapula will glide better along your back ribs, allowing for bigger a range of motion with the arms. A hunched and stiff upper back will often place the scapula in a protracted, winged position. Your shoulder joints are in a more optimal position for movement on a mobile upper back.
  • Easier Breathing– A flexible back will encourage rib movement. This, in turn, allows for more efficient breathing since the movement of the ribs is the mechanism that “vacuum fills” your lungs.
  • Better Full Body Movement – Most types of human locomotion require thoracic rotation. You twist slightly during climbing, walking, running and swimming. And every time you throw, punch, or use a racquet, you are getting power from thoracic rotation. You will see improvements in all kinds of sports with a more mobile thoracic spine. Even your driving will improve.

Still not convinced that thoracic mobility is important? Consider this…

Lack of thoracic mobility may result in pain, discomfort and compensation in the areas above or below the upper back. If your thoracic spine is stiff, often the neighboring areas – neck, shoulders and low back – be become more mobile and less stable so that you accomplish your daily activities and sports. To prevent these issues, we need to practice mobilizing our upper backs.

In short, you’ve got to move your upper back. It doesn’t have to be big or tough or fast or beautiful. But start today. If you don’t know how, visit our studio for a small group training.

Here are 3 easy variations of a side-lying twist or “Book Opener”. These are gentle thoracic mobility exercises can be done daily. Try doing 6 twists -any variety- on each side everyday. Remember to leave your knees on the ground to anchor your lower body. Try to coordinate the movement of your head, arm, and ribs so that they move together.


Spinal Rotation
Spinal Rotation



Great for working on shoulder mobility, but keep your top arm bent during the rolling back movement if you have a shoulder injury.
Spinal Rotation with Telescoping Arms. Great for working on back and shoulder mobility, but keep your top arm bent during the rolling back movement if you have a shoulder injury.



Spinal Rotation with Pinwheel Arms. Another great one for mobilizing the thoracic and shoulders. Skip this if you have a shoulder injury.
Spinal Rotation with Pinwheel Arms. A great thoracic twist with a nice, big shoulder stretch. Perfect for you swimmers.



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