Thoracic Spine Exercise Prescription


Dr Caleb Burgess

Physical Therapist United States

This blog is a shortened version of a review from the June 2020 issue of Physio Network and highlights a study on “Thoracic Spine Exercise Prescription in Sport”, reviewed by Travis Pollen.



  • The thoracic spine is a critical component of the kinetic chain during sport. It serves as a link between the lumbar and cervical regions as well as the connection to the upper extremity
  • It also provides the majority of rotational range of motion through the trunk
  • The purpose of this systematic review was to create a collection of thoracic spine exercises for athletes and categorize the exercises based on the 4 intended adaptations



  • The authors searched several databases as well as social media for exercises that target the thoracic spine in adult athletes
  • Each exercise they identified was categorized in 1 of the 4 groups



  • The search resulted in 38 exercises
  • The overall level of evidence was of low quality as a result of being derived mostly from expert opinion




  • In addition to the usual databases like PubMed and Google Scholar, the authors expanded their search to social media, which is not considered a trustworthy source of evidence
  • However, the authors chose this strategy for 2 reasons:
    1. There is a lack of information on thoracic spine exercise prescription in the scientific literature
    2. Including social media may better represent the breadth of exercises that practitioners use in the field

It’s important to note that this exercise list is not exhaustive


Clinical implications

  • Proper function of the thoracic spine is important for overall spine and upper extremity performance, so this adaptation-based list of exercises may be a helpful resource to practitioners when prescribing exercises for patients
  • Given the limited scientific evidence, practitioners should be aware that the effectiveness of these exercises for rehabilitation is largely unknown


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About the Author


Dr Caleb Burgess

Physical Therapist United States

Dr. Burgess primarily works with the sports and orthopedic populations, with a focus on blending biomechanics, pain science, and foundational strength and conditioning principles to provide a truly eclectic approach to his patients. He is a board certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and has completed two separate year long orthopedic residency and sports/orthopedic fellowship programs. In addition to practicing in clinic, Caleb assists in mentoring orthopedic residents in Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program and students at Azusa Pacific University He posts on social media daily and can be found on his Instagram, Facebook or website links below.

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