Thoracic Restriction

While neck and low back pain get all the attention, restricted movement through your thoracic spine (mid back) can be the of pain and restriction.

Thoracic spine

Thoracic restriction is prevalence is 15-35% of the adult population, although can reach up to 55% in the working population over a 12-month period! With women more likely to suffer from thoracic pain. Work conditions are also said to contribute to increased thoracic pain and restriction, such as, high workload, frequency of tasks, time seated and high mental pressure

In saying that, thoracic back pain can be due to something more serious so may also be worth a check-up at the GP if you are noticing prolonged pain, new pain and any other things that just don’t appear quite right. Visceral pain can also mimic thoracic pain.

So, what’s the cause of thoracic restriction and pain?

As with everything in the body, thoracic restriction can be multifactorial.

  • It can be due to a sedentary lifestyle with prolonged sitting leading to a stiff thoracic spine contributing other pain and dysfunction in adjacent spinal regions.
  • Repetitive strain from work and/or poor posture through repeated tasks.
  • It may be due to aged related bony changes such as arthritis or spondylosis.
  • Can be due to previous trauma such as a car accident.

And, what can you do?Thoracic movement

Movement! To make lasting improvements we need to move our bodies consistently and make it part of our daily routine. We often neglect our thoracic spine but working on overall functional mobility actively can help reduce associated back pain and get you moving better with less pain.

Some examples include:
  • Thoracic extension on the roller.
  • Using a peanut to get into those sticky spots.
  • Quadruped thoracic spine rotation or thread the needle.
  • The archer or opening the book.


Think you have a thoracic restriction? Or want to look at what mobility exercise you can incorporate into your daily routine, book in here!

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Pasquier, M., Young, J. J., Lardon, A., & Descarreaux, M. (2022). Factors Associated With Clinical Responses to Spinal Manipulation in Patients With Non-specific Thoracic Back Pain: A Prospective Cohort Study. Frontiers of Pain Research.

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