How to Fix Rounded Shoulders: The Thoracic Spine Stretch

Looking for information on how to fix rounded shoulders? You came to the right place! But first, you need to ensure you have mobility in your thoracic spine, which we'll do via a thoracic spine stretch. A mobile thoracic spine supports fluid, correct movement of your scapula, which is needed to prevent shoulder pain. Because we sit a lot and complete forward tasks, almost everyone’s midback is tighter than it should be. This leads to neck pain, muscle tightness, and shoulder pain.

Thoracic Spine Stretch

Thoracic Spine Stretch

To perform a thoracic spine stretch, simply lie back on the foam roller, hands supporting your neck. Roll and stretch back from the bottom of your scapula to the top (mid back to top of shoulder). Try not to hyper-extend your neck or low back; this exercise is meant to stretch the mid back only.

  • Start at your midback (around your bra line if you are wearing a bra. Guys probably still know where that is.)
  • Lean back and hold for a second or two
  • Roll up, moving the roller toward your head an inch or two and lean back again.
  • Repeat until you have made it all the way to the top of the shoulders, or about where I am in this picture
  • Repeat any tight spots again

This is a great stretch to add to your post-work routine, especially if your job is stressful and involves leaning forward. This stretch will feel amazing!

Now, if you have osteoporosis, check with your doctor. Severe osteoporosis is a contraindication for the foam roller, and it is not worth the risk of a fracture. I usually find most people with osteoporosis feel a stretch just lying flat on the floor anyway, which is risk-free.

If you have really rounded shoulders, simply start by lying flat on the floor and supporting your head with your hands. This would be a great time to incorporate a chin tuck! Once that feels comfortable, use a small towel roll or soft yoga mat instead of the roller and be gentle on your back. The foam roller can be rather aggressive so you want to work your way in slowly.

There are some great shoulder mobility exercises you can do with the roller, along with foam rolling key areas like the IT band. If you need a good introductory foam rolling resource, read my Learn How to Use a Foam Roller post. For other foam rolling content, visit my articles on increasing scapula strength and building a strong shoulder and The Gluteus Maximus: Sciatic Pain Relief.


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