Thoracic Mobility for the Overhead Athlete

by Lauren Freitas, DPT >> Request an Appointment

If you play any rotational sports, thoracic mobility is crucial to your spine, shoulder and hip health. Whether you’re serving a tennis ball, hitting over the volleyball net, or swinging a golf club, you need adequate thoracic rotation and extension mobility to avoid putting stress on your lower back, neck and shoulders. It all has to do with “Regional Interdependence” – the idea that seemingly unrelated issues in one area of the body can cause pain in another region. The thoracic spine is directly connected to your neck and lower back. It has associations with the shoulder blade that affect your shoulder mobility as well. Therefore, by taking proper care of your T-spine, you can indirectly yet effectively provide benefit to the areas above and below it.

Dynamic Stretch for Thoracic Spine Rotation (15 reps each side)

This dynamic stretch for T-spine rotation adds a bonus hip flexor and glute stretch while you target thoracic extension and rotation mobility. Step your left foot forward into a lunge. Tuck hips under to get a stretch in the right hip flexor. Place right hand on ground and left hand behind head with spine straight. Rotate right, touching left elbow down to right wrist, rounding through upper back. Rotate to the left, opening up through chest and extending though the upper back.

Thoracic Extension Cat-Cow Modification (15 reps)

This stretch is a modification of the cat-cow, focusing on thoracic extension. Start with elbows up on bench and hands clasped at lower neck. Sit hips back towards heels as you drop your chest towards the ground. Reverse the motion to round through upper back as you lift hips up.

Thoracic Rotation Stretch (10 reps each side)

This stretch works on thoracic rotation while keeping the hips and lower back locked out. Pull knees and hips to 90 degrees while lying on your side. Sweep your left arm up overhead and around to the other side, trying to get your left shoulder blade to touch the floor. Sweep arm back down to start position.

Try out these exercises and let us know what you think!

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