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Brain-Based Fall Prevention & Preparation.


Episode 71: Mobilizing Your Mid-Back

Video Highlights

-Simple ways to deepen the stretch.
-Mobilizing your mid-back.
-Go gently at first, this could be intense.

Hi, everybody. Dr. Cobb back with you.

Hope you’re having a great week. That’s my usual intro. Wanted to make sure I didn’t forget it.

Today, we’re going to be talking about some stuff about your spine.

Now, I’m just going to mention this. If you hear yelling or anything in the background, we have a huge class going on outside my office, so that may be what you hear.

Now, the spine is a super-interesting part of the body, and obviously, tons of people have neck problems, mid-back problems, and low-back problems. As you know, in the Z-Health system, we focus a lot first on rebuilding mobility. If you look at children and how flexible and mobile they are, we should actually be examples for them as adults, but sadly, most of us lose mobility over time. One of the big reasons is exactly what I’m doing right now, which is sitting. I’m sitting here at my desk. I’ve got a computer to look at. What I’m going to do is take you through a very fast mobilization sequence that you can apply, first of all, for your mid back because we find so many issues with the mid back. The idea here is for you to understand a little bit about how the spine works, so let’s talk really quickly.

Whenever I tilt my head in my neck, or if I tilt my spine, what happens is, as the vertebrae is tilting, it’s also performing another motion with it. In the science literature, they call this coupled motion. Now, there’s a lot of argument around coupled motion and exactly how it works in the spine, but there are a couple of basics that we can cover, which is whenever I tilt, I often rotate. When the vertebrae tilts to one side, it also rotates at the same time. Now, why this is so cool to know is that we can take advantage of that.

Whenever I work with people, one of the things that I notice is that many of them have a lot of difficulties in side bending. Even if they go to a gym, they tend to flex forward and flex back and maybe even rotate. One of the things we often don’t do, in terms of building mobility, is side bending. Tons of shoulder problems, neck problems, low-back problems, hip problems come from being immobile on the sides of the body.

What we’re going to focus on today is we’re going to work on the thoracic spine. Now the thoracic spine is your mid back. It starts at the base of your neck and goes down to the base of your ribs. The way that we’re going to work on this is we’re going to do one motion, which is tilting, and then we’re going to add a rotation. Then we’re going to come back, and we’re going to tilt a little further, and we’re going to rotate and tilt a little further. I’m going to show you kind of how this works based on how we think the spine motion is coupled.

The easiest place to start this is in the lower thoracic spine. From basically your mid chest down, what we’re going to do is we’re going to bend in one direction, so I’m bending to my right. Then I’m going to rotate to my left because from about T6 to T12, which is the vertebrae numbers, we think that there is what’s called a contralateral coupling, which means when I bend to my right, I rotate to the left.

Okay, so here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to sit up nice and tall, take an arm overhead. Be comfortable with this. Then you’re going to, in your lower ribs, tilt to the right. Then you’re going to rotate left just a couple little beats, and then bend to the right more. Then rotate and bend, rotate and bend, rotate and bend, rotate and bend. Notice how I’m kind of losing my hair as I do that. The cool thing is, when you do this kind of coupled work, very often you’ll get a much deeper range of motion with very little stress because if I were to come over here and just bend and bend and bend and bend, I might be able to go further, but when I actually pay attention to how the spine works biomechanically, I can go a lot further and a lot faster with a lot more ease.

So you go again, tilt, rotate away, tilt, rotate away, tilt, rotate away, and just comfortably work into that range of motion, and then maybe spend two or three deep breaths there. Then come up and do it to the opposite side. If I was going to the opposite side, it would be tilt to the left, rotate right, tilt left, rotate right, tilt left, rotate right. I just work my way down till I feel a nice, comfortable mobilization. All right, so that was awesome. That was the lower ribs.

Now we want to go to the upper ribs. Up above, so from mid chest up to the base of your neck, these follow a different pattern. It’s called an ipsilateral coupling pattern, which means that when I tilt my upper spine to the right, I rotate to the right. Now what we’re going to do is the same exact motion, except we’re going to be tilting and rotating the same direction. For the upper neck and spine, what I’d kind of like for you to do is gently put your hands behind your head, not like this, but like this. Put your hands behind your head, and maybe actually flex just a little bit. You’re going to link them up through the neck, around slightly. Now from here, tilt to the right and rotate right. Tilt right, rotate right. Tilt right, rotate right.

Go really gently with these because sometimes the mobilization or stretch that you feel will be very intense. It’ll be different, probably different than anything that you’ve been doing before. Now, if you’ve been doing R-phase drills, you already know that we do a lot of what we call thoracic glides, and we add rotations to them, and sometimes we add tilts to them. These are the same exact motions that we’re showing you, only now we’re doing them individually so that you can go a little bit deeper into the motion.

Let’s go ahead and do our upper spine to the left. Once again, hands behind the head and neck. We’re going to flex a little bit, and we’re going to tilt left, rotate left. Tilt left, rotate left. If I let my head come in, I can usually get into my upper back a little bit more. So tilt left, rotate, tilt, rotate. That’s it. You can do one pulse. You can do two pulses, so tilt, tilt, rotate, rotate, whatever is most comfortable for you.

Like I said, this is to take advantage of the biomechanics of the spine to help you get better mobilization. As you can see, I’m doing this at my desk. My back feels great, so give it a shot. Let me know how it works for you. Lastly, though, go cautiously with these. Like I said, they’re going to be fairly intense if you’ve never done them before. I don’t want you to get any spasms or anything, so go less range than you think you need to your first few times through it, and let us know if you have any questions. Thanks.

All right, so to recap this whole process, remember we broke your spine into two divisions, your mid back into two divisions: the upper and lower portion. For the upper portion, remember you’re going to tilt to the right, rotate right. For the lower portion,  you’re going to tilt right, rotate left. Now, I demonstrated a couple different ways to do this, so let’s say you’re on your break. You’re like, “Ah, my back’s feeling tight. I want to do this mobilization.”

You have two options. I’m going to demonstrate it with the lower section. I sit up. I get nice and tall. Option one is tilt, rotate, reset, tilt again, rotate, reset, tilt again, rotate. Now, normally if I’m doing it that way I’ll do two or three little tilts first, tilt, tilt, tilt, and then rotate, rotate, rotate, reset, tilt, tilt, tilt, and work my way down. Normally, three to five sets of that, and I’m good to go.

The other option is to do a truly coupled motion where you tilt, rotate, tilt, rotate, tilt, rotate, tilt, rotate. You notice I ran out of breath there, so that’s typically my endpoint when I can no longer inhale comfortably. Both versions work, and I just suggest that you play around with them. See which one works best for you. Remember you’re shooting mainly for three to five sets of this.

The whole process to do your lower and upper back should take you less than approximately 90 seconds. If you do it a couple times throughout the day, a huge difference in how you feel, a huge difference in your posture.

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