Is Weighted Mobilization for the Thoracic Spine a Bad Idea?

Foam rolling for the thoracic spine is a good intervention for improving thoracic spine motion.  I use it for myself, patients and athletes regularly.  However, should we be adding weight to the movement?  My answer is that it probably depends.

Now, if you’re rolling your thoracic spine properly it most likely feels a bit uncomfortable.  Generally what I’ve found is that if you force your body into a new uncomfortable range of motion it tends to fight back.  Muscles will guard and you’ll get the opposite of what you want, decreased motion in the spine potentially due to increased discomfort and muscle guarding.  So when should we add weight to these mobilizations?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t use extra weight unless you are no longer getting a result from bodyweight alone
  • Generally speaking you should have been using bodyweight for a period of time before advancing
  • Only advance to weight once discomfort is minimal
  • Start with lighter loads
  • Make sure you aren’t compensating through the lumbar spine as you begin adding load

Check out the videos below for my favorite ways of adding load to thoracic spine mobilizations

and make sure your technique stays up to snuff while foam rolling with load:

Want to learn more about how to assess the thoracic spine and to find other great exercises to mobilize it?  Check out Dr. Dave Tilley and my product:

Monkey Method – Movement Essentials

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Fixing Technical Flaws in the Handstand, Muscle-up and Olympic Lifts

Get that spine moving,

Daniel Pope, DPT, OCS, CSCS

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