Improving Your Posture: Importance of Thoracic Mobility

 The importance of posture in our daily lives is often underrated. For a large number of people, much of the day is spent in a flexion-biased, or forward-rounded position. The degree of this bias can be vary based on many different factors.  This often presents as a forward head, rounded shoulders, and an increasingly rounded mid-back area. Whether you work in healthcare treating patients, at a desk job typing and answering phone calls, or driving a truck, posture is important. Over time, if your posture is poor, forward flexed position can cause pain and increase the risk of injury. Strengthening, mobility work, and general awareness can all assist in reducing injury risk. Today I will be discussing the importance of thoracic (mid-back) mobility in helping maintain better posture throughout the day. Improve your posture through your thoracic spine.

Where is the thoracic spine and what is its function?

The thoracic spine is a series of 12 separate spinal segments that extend along the mid back. They serve as a connection between the neck and low back. They are also an attachment point for the ribs, which protect vital organs and the lungs.

 What is the importance of mobility in the Thoracic spine?

The thoracic spine is a crucial part of posture and adequate spinal mobility. It is directly connected to the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) spine. If there is a lack of motion in the thoracic spine, that lack of motion will result in a heavier reliance on the neck and lower back to make up for it. This often increases neck, shoulder, and/or low back pain.

 Importance of Thoracic spine mobility in the breathing cycle?

 The thoracic spine has attachments to the ribs. When breathing in, a natural slight extension occurs at the thoracic spine to help achieve a deep, full breath and allow for full lung expansion. It stands to reason that if there is not an adequate amount of extension in the thoracic spine, it will directly result in a decreased ability to complete a full breath cycle. This can have resultant effects on both the cardiovascular system as well as your parasympathetic nervous system. 

 Importance of Thoracic spine mobility for shoulder mobility?

Thoracic mobility plays a critical part in end-range overhead shoulder mobility. As we work to lift our shoulder overhead, a natural extension should occur in the thoracic spine towards the end of the motion to achieve full range. If that motion is not available, compensations occur throughout the body. These compensations can result in heightened strain on the soft tissues of the shoulder, increasing the risk of a shoulder injury. An additional compensation is increased lumbar (low back) extension which will put excess pressure through both the soft tissue and the discs in the low back, which over time can also result in pain and injury.

  In addition to the breathing cycle and shoulder mobility, the thoracic spine plays a critical part in many other movements in the body. By highlighting some functions, I hope this article helps shed light on the importance of thoracic mobility in our daily lives. By continuing to work on posture and mobility, specifically within the thoracic spine, you will notice improvements in posture and will reduce the risk of injury in surrounding areas.

For more specific questions about posture, reach out to us here.



Rachel graduated with honors from Concordia University Wisconsin in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology and in 2017 with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. At Concordia, Rachel had the opportunity to take advanced coursework in manual therapy and sport specific training.