Many activities in modern life, such as working at a computer or looking at hand-held devices, can lead to poor posture. This hunched-over posture puts your thoracic spine and upper back in a flexed position. Spending a lot of time in this position can lead to neck and back pain, and eventually limit your ability to move.
Thoracic spine extension exercises help maintain good posture and strengthen muscles that keep your spine straight.
1. Prone Back Extensions
Muscles that extend your spine can be strengthened while lying on your stomach.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie face-down with your legs together and your palms facing the sides of your thighs. Inhale and tighten your abdominal muscles as if you are pulling your belly button toward your spine. Exhale as you lift your upper body off the mat and open your chest. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
2. Thoracic Spine Foam Rolling
Exercising with a foam roller can help relax tight muscles and improve flexibility and symmetry.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Place your foam roller crosswise under your upper back. Clasp your hands behind your head with your elbows pointed toward the ceiling.
Press down through your heels and lift your buttocks off the ground. Use your legs to slowly roll your upper body along the roller. Avoid rolling over your neck or lower back. Repeat 10 times.
3. Spinal Twist
Adding rotation to your thoracic extension exercises further improves flexibility.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your head supported. Place your foam roller lengthwise next to your right knee. Keeping your right leg straight, bend your left knee and place your foot on the ground.
Slowly twist your spine and allow your left knee to cross over your right thigh until it is resting on the foam roller. Breathe deeply as you relax into this gentle twist. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat three times in each direction. Keep both shoulder blades on the ground throughout this exercise.