You Should Foam Roll Your Thoracic Spine Properly

By djpope

June 19, 2016

extension, flexibility, foam roller, foam rolling, mobility, T-spine, Thoracic spine

So I guess why I’m revisiting this topic is because I continue to see people who foam roll their thoracic spine incorrectly.  It’s such a powerful movement when done properly so I don’t want to ignore it.  I think most people realize that when they foam roll their thoracic spine for extension they shouldn’t just roll up and down their upper back.  We’re trying to specifically target extension in the thoracic spine.  So we ideally want to stay in one place and extend over the roller.

Another important aspect of thoracic spine foam rolling is keeping your ribs down throughout the movement.  This will ensure that you’re actually mobilizing the thoracic spine right underneath of the roller and not mobilizing your lumbar spine.  Chances are that if you get excessive lumbar extension during foam rolling then you’re also getting lumbar spine extension during other motions in the gym.  Better clean up that thoracic spine foam rolling.

The difference between foam rolling your thoracic spine well and completely missing the mark looks pretty similar. Can you tell which one is correct? 1) In the top video I actively extend my spine over the roller while maintaining my ribs down. The cue I usually give my patients / athletes is to breathe the ribs down with each exhale and try to get your spine to take the contour of the roller. This not only promotes mobility of the thoracic spine but also reinforces the motor control of thoracic spine extension with the ribs down. This is the variation I believe to be more correct 2) In version two on the bottom video you can see my ribs actively rising during the mobilization. If you look closer you may even see some increased lumbar extension. Rib flair and lumbar extension are generally coupled and not wanted when we're looking to target the thoracic spine. This is a concept @shift_movementscience and I talk about @powermonkeyfitness camp. Try both and see if you can feel the difference. If you know someone who could benefit from these then please share in the comments! @davedurante @chadvaughnswife @olychad @mikecerbus @modernmanualtherapy @rupert.egan @barbellrehab @thebarbellphysio @jsshane @themovementfix #thoracic #mobility #physicaltherapy #foamroller #twitter #lambofgod

A video posted by Daniel Pope (@fitnesspainfree) on

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

Nothing better then beating a dead horse with a foam roller,

Daniel Pope DPT, CSCS