Benefits of Thoracic Manipulation

The Thorax is that middling region of spine that harbours the rib cage. Known to become rigid and inflexibility with age and sedentary life styles. Joint manipulation in this area has been shown to relieve pain, improve range of motion, and restore normal spinal movement. That being said, the thoracic spine doesn’t get as much attention as the more commonly nagging neck and lower back complaints when maybe it should. Reason being, thoracic joint fixations are a silent contributor to a variety of problems, therefore relieving this issue can have far reaching benefits. Let’s talk about some the surprising benefits shown in research.

Firstly, take a moment to imagine what happens to segments above and below a fixed area of spine. A huge amount of movement demand and stress occurs at the adjacent areas. For example; if you made a fist around any segment of a garden hose, the areas above and below would be prone to kink. That’s exactly what happens to certain pain generating areas of the cervical and lumbar spine. In fact, thoracic spine manipulation can significantly improve pain and motion in adjacent cervical and lumbar region.

Let’s take it a step further. A study by JB.Strunce and colleagues demonstrated a significant decrease in shoulder pain as well as a marked improvement in shoulder range of motion after a single treatment of thoracic joint manipulation. This may not seem intuitive at first, until consider the unique relationship of the shoulder blade (scapulae) revolving around the rib cage. When the Rib cage is stuck it doesn’t allow for the scapula to slide back into its favoured position. As a result, the shoulders become around rolled forward and the rotator cuff isn’t provided the proper clearance it needs to slide through small crevices. Putting you at high risk for shoulder “impingement”.


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There are other noteworthy roles the thoracic cage plays in human biomechanics. As we inhale and exhale the thoracic cavity and expands and contracts to force air in and out, especially as a natural surplus during heavy exertion. A 2016 study by Shin DC and Lee YW showed thoracic manipulation to increase the respiratory function of its participants. “I can breath better” is a comment often heard in our clinic as patients take their first expansive breath after a treatment.

Thoracic spinal adjusting is a safe and effective treatment for dysfunctional joints. It can help restore normal spinal and scapular movement, improve breathing and reduce pain. If you are experiencing neck, back or shoulder pain, as well as difficulty breathing, then it may be a good idea to speak to your chiropractor about thoracic spinal adjusting.

Sung YB, Lee JH, Park YH. Effects of thoracic mobilization and manipulation on function and mental state in chronic lower back pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014 Nov;26(11):1711-4. doi: 10.1589/jpts.26.1711. Epub 2014 Nov 13. PMID: 25435683; PMCID: PMC4242938.

Masaracchio M, Kirker K, States R, Hanney WJ, Liu X, Kolber M. Thoracic spine manipulation for the management of mechanical neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2019 Feb 13;14(2):e0211877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211877. PMID: 30759118; PMCID: PMC6373960.

Shin DC, Lee YW. The immediate effects of spinal thoracic manipulation on respiratory functions. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016 Sep;28(9):2547-2549. doi: 10.1589/jpts.28.2547. Epub 2016 Sep 29. PMID: 27799691; PMCID: PMC5080173.

Strunce JB, Walker MJ, Boyles RE, Young BA. The immediate effects of thoracic spine and rib manipulation on subjects with primary complaints of shoulder pain. J Man Manip Ther. 2009;17(4):230-6. doi: 10.1179/106698109791352102. PMID: 20140154; PMCID: PMC2813499.