Thoracic Back Pain Exercises

By Josh Baum
Thoracic exercises help golfers lessen back pain and improve performance.
Thoracic exercises help golfers lessen back pain and improve performance.

Control over one's spine angle and free, fluid movement of the spine are crucial requirements for a perfect golf swing. Improved control can be learned over time, but unrestricted movement of the spine can often be hampered by back pain. If you're experiencing pain in your middle and upper back where the thoracic vertebrae are located, you might be able to relieve it and strengthen your back muscles through simple exercises.

Thoracic Extension

This simple stretch can open the thoracic vertebrae, easing pressure on spinal discs and loosen up sore back muscles. To perform this stretch, find a chair with a short back that comes up only as far as the bottoms of your shoulder blades. Sit up straight in the chair with both hands clasped behind your head. Begin breathing deeply, and when you inhale, arch your upper back backward until you're looking straight up at the ceiling. Exhale as you sit up straight. Repeat this stretch several more times to fully soothe and relax the upper back. This exercise can be performed several times per day.

The Cat Cow Stretch

This is a common Pilates exercise that is used to help teach basic muscle control, relieve tension and loosen up muscles. Begin by getting on all fours on an exercise mat. Kneel with your knees spread hip-width apart and plant both palms directly below your shoulders with your arms perpendicular to the floor. Take deep breaths, and as you exhale, assume the "stretching cat" pose--arch your back in the middle while lowering your head and tailbone. When you begin to inhale, switch to the "cow" pose--lower your middle back while raising your head, chest and tailbone as high as you can without taking your hands or knees off the mat. Repeat in sets of 20 stretches.

Mid-Trap Stretch

This exercise loosens the back and shoulder muscles while pushing the vertebrae slightly toward the rib cage, temporarily easing pressure on spinal discs. Lie face-down on an exercise mat with a pillow underneath your chest. Stick both arms straight out to your sides with your thumbs pointing up. Lift both hands an inch or so off the ground, then slowly raise both hands straight up toward the ceiling as high as you can. When you can't stretch any more, slowly lower them until they're about an inch off the ground. Repeat these reps up to 14 more times before taking a rest. Try to do several sets of reps per day. If you need more resistance, do it with light hand weights.

The Cobra Pose

This no-impact stretch is another Pilates staple that can stretch the thoracic vertebrae to the limit of your comfort and flexibility. Lie face down on an exercise mat. Turn your feet so that the tops of your feet are on the mat, place your hands beneath your shoulders and tuck your elbows in against your sides. Begin breathing deeply but normally, and on an inhale, push up with your arms so that your head, chest and torso begin to lift off the ground. As you do this, continue breathing and make sure you don't move from the waist down, though you will naturally feel your pubic bone and thighs press down harder onto the mat. Continue extending until your arms are straight, your head is high and the curvature of your back is spread evenly throughout your whole spine. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise four more times.

Thoracic Stretch

This exercise will stretch your thoracic vertebrae in the exact opposite direction as the cobra pose, so it's a great companion exercise. Begin by sitting up straight on an exercise mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Hold the undersides of your thighs with your hands and begin breathing deeply. On an exhale, bow your head and lean forward as fully as possible, as if you were trying to touch your nose to your navel. Hold this pose until the end of the breath, then slowly resume a straight sitting position while inhaling. Repeat this 14 more times.

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