Thoracic Spine Mobility Assessment Strategies

I was first introduced to the thoracic spine mobility assessment strategies in the videos below when I attended the Functional Movement System SFMA course last year in Melbourne.  As part of the SFMA, these assessments are incorporated into some of the breakout assessments.  Ideally we are looking to see if the individual is able to actively rotate > 50 degrees functionally without pain.


These days I will often use these simple and effective assessment strategies as part of my overall assessment of clients in order to gain more insight into how they are moving.


Thoracic Spine Mobility Assessment – Lumbar Locked and Minimising Shoulder Input

Rest on the front forearm and sit back onto ones feet to reduce spinal rotation contribution through the lumbar spine.  Placement of the arm behind the back minimises the input from the shoulder girdle.  Have the client actively rotate as far as they can rotate  I will also passively overload this movement to determine if there is any additional movement that could be gained.

I will often compare the movement demonstrated above to the thoracic spine lumbar locked position with hand on head to see what happens when we place the shoulder girdle in position where it can assist.  I will also perform some gentle passive over pressure for this assessment strategy to see if there is much more range available passively.

Thoracic Spine Mobility – Lumbar Locked With Shoulder Girdle Involvement

Interpreting The Results

Should the client be able to actively rotate > 50 degrees in both assessments, I will see this as a pass mark. I do however like to look at the quality of movement from left to right and see if there is a difference in ease.

If the individual is unable to actively rotate 50 degrees, then I will assess and see if I can passively move them to this position.  If I can passively move them to this position, then this suggests to me that they have the potential to be able to do this, but there may be some issues around motor control that could be limiting this.

If the individual is unable to actively or passively perform this movement, then I will often delve further into the assessment to determine if there are any joint or soft tissue issues contributing to this.

Should I see a difference in the individuals ability to rotate with/without shoulder girdle girdle involvement, then I will look to investigate things further to understand what/what/how the shoulder girdle girdle is working with the thoracic spine.

As with all testing, I am also wanting to take into consideration ability to perform these movements with/without pain and will adjust my assessment and treatment/management strategy accordingly if there is pain.

For those of you are interested in finding out more about the FMS or SFMA systems, please be sure to check out

This blog was written by Osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.


Principle Four Osteopathy

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD leading Osteopathy clinics. At the clinic we treat a wide range of clients, ranging from the office worker, exercise enthusiast to athlete. We have 3 experienced osteopaths working across both of the clinics.

The Melbourne City CBD clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place (basement), close to the corner of Elizabeth St and Little Bourke in the Melbourne City CBD. Our premises adjoin the Jon Weller Personal Training Studio, a fully-equipped training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

The Docklands clinic is located at 717 Bourke St (Ground Floor), beneath the Channel 9 building near the walkway from Southern Cross Train Station to Etihad Stadium. Our premises adjoin Pilates on Bourke, a fully-equipped pilates and yoga training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials, pilates or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

To speak to an Osteopath or book an appointment at Principle Four Osteopathy, please book online or call 03 9670 9290.