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What we’ll cover
  1. What is thoracic spine?
  2. What causes a stiff thoracic spine?
  3. Physiotherapy for a stiff thoracic spine
  4. Thoracic rotation exercises

The importance of thoracic rotation

Your thoracic or mid-spine is a common area that develops stiffness and has reduced flexibility. Mobility, especially rotation, is important in the thoracic spine as it contributes up to 80% of total back rotation. As a result, reduced rotation can not only cause symptoms and stiffness around the middle of the back, but can be a contributing factor in common conditions including neck pain, headache, low back pain and shoulder pain.

What is thoracic spine?

The thoracic spine is made up of the middle vertebrae of your spine. It consists of 12 vertebrae all of which your rib cage attaches. Whilst the thoracic spine is important for any activities that include rotation such as golf or tennis, it is crucial for movements that we perform every day. For example, movements such as walking, getting in and out of bed and turning your head all require mobility through the middle of your back.

What causes a stiff thoracic spine?

The causes of a stiff thoracic spine can vary significantly and be caused by a number of factors. This includes:
– Sustained and prolonged postures in a slouched position (eg. studying, working, driving)
– Tightness and reduced flexibility in the muscles that attach to the spine (eg. excessive or repetitive lifting, tension/stress)
– Medical conditions including arthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis or Scheurmann’s disease

Physiotherapy for a stiff thoracic spine

A stiff thoracic spine is one of the most common conditions that we see as physiotherapists. Your physiotherapist can perform a variety of techniques to reduce pain and stiffness including mobilisations, manipulation and massage. Whilst these techniques will dramatically reduce your pain, without improving your strength and performing mobility exercises, symptoms will continue to re-occur.

Physiotherapy is also able to guide you back to full mobility using corrective exercises that target mobility and strength. Clinical pilates is great for improving thoracic mobility as it provides a safe avenue to target the middle back without exacerbating symptoms.

Thoracic rotation exercises

Try these exercises below to improve your thoracic rotation. Importantly, these thoracic rotation stretches should not cause pain or discomfort. If unsure, consult your trusted health professional.

Start in a ½ kneeling position with your inner leg and hip against the wall

Keeping your inside arm against the wall, draw back the outer arm as far as comfortable

To increase the stretch, feel free to move the inside arm forwards as you “draw back”

Repeat the same movements on both sides

Start in a ½ kneeling position with your inner leg and hip against the wall

Try to rotate your outer hand all the way around and back

To make the exercise easier, ensure you keep the inside hand against the wall

Repeat the same movements on both sides

If you are experiencing ongoing thoracic stiffness, neck pain or low back pain, see your physiotherapist. Our team at Malvern East Physiotherapy regularly treat these common conditions. To see our team, call us or book online today.


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Last week our team celebrated another great year. 

Whilst Melbourne’s weather had its own plans, we were still determined to keep with the theme of ‘Italian Summer’. We let our hair down to master the art of mixology 🍸🍹followed by an Italian feast. Friday morning Run Club with the team. Practicing what we preach!

Staying stronger, healthier and happier. This time last week, our team was nervously completing their final preparations for @melbmara . 

Congratulations to our physiotherapists and ME community who ran on the day.

Dilen and Michael completed their first marathons. Abbey and Lizzie smashed out their first half. Last Sunday, our team headed down to see our own Matt Warren win a premiership in the VAFA Premier Men’s Competition. Last week our team dedicated a full day to professional development and team building. At ME Physio we pride ourselves on collaboration to put you at the centre of everything we do. 

Our team covered the latest treatments for back pain, financial well-being and finished off the day with salsa dancing. 

Many thanks to our guests including James Schomburgk from @the2ndvisitphysio , Financial Planners Tony Vikram & Cameron Bishop and the @salsafoundation At ME Physio, our focus is on helping you get stronger so that you can keep doing the things you love.

For Tony and Joan, healthier and stronger is being able to navigate the iconic Coast to Coast Walk in the UK! We recently had the pleasure of hosting Elise Bujor from Women’s & Men’s Health Physiotherapy to discuss women’s health issues across the lifespan. 

Our team pride themselves on staying up to date to ensure you’re able to stay healthier, happier and stronger. Huge milestones over the past few weeks with both Tom and Jude from @delasallefc doing their first bit of running in their rehab. 

Tom is on the return from an ankle dislocation whilst Jude is putting in the hard work following a knee reconstruction. Last week our team enjoyed some friendly rivalry at the footy. 

With finals around the corner, some of our team can now safely make holidays plans for September. We recently had the pleasure of hosting the podiatry team from @sespodiatry. 

Our physiotherapists Michael and Abbey presented on rehabilitation following Achilles surgical repair and ankle surgery. Last weekend some of our team got together to complete the 10 km run @runmelbourne. There was no finish line picture as some were keen to run another 15 km!

Whilst running wasn’t for some - brunch was well received by everyone. Shoulder impingement can be incredibly frustrating and painful. 

Tony has been working closely with our physiotherapists Vernon and Dilen to get on top of his shoulder pain. His treatment plan has included hands-on physiotherapy and individualised exercises in our hydrotherapy and strength programs.

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