The 4 Best Thoracic Disc Herniation Exercises | Mid Back Disc Herniation Exercises

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Best Thoracic Disc Herniation Exercises: chiropractor

Want to know the best thoracic disc herniation exercises?


Would you like to know why you have a thoracic disc herniation?


Do you have thoracic pain each time you sit for an hour or more?


In this article of I will try my best to explain to you the basics of the thoracic spine, then show you the exercises you need to reduce your thoracic spine disc herniation. The thoracic  spine or mid back are the vertebrae in between your lower back and neck.



The Thoracic Spine is special for a three reasons.




Wedges Stacked On Each Other Form An Arch


1. Your thoracic discs are wedge shaped. Your thoracic discs are fatter at the back and thinner at the front. If you stack up a bunch of wedge-shaped blocks you will form an arc. In your thoracic spine or mid back the wedges are more gently angled so that your mid back forms a gentle arc or curve for most of you. The big deal about this is that when your posture is bad and you are slouching as most of us do, this puts pressure on the thoracic spine but also your neck vertebrae called the cervical spine. For many of you, the pain that you suffer actually comes from a slouched posture putting pressure on your thoracic spine which in turn puts, even more, pressure on your neck.




thoracic-spine mid back showing the wedge shaped discs which help for the curve of the mid back.

2. The second reason the thoracic spine is special is that they are attached to your ribs. The rib attachment means that your thoracic spine is more stable. By being more stable there’s less motion at your thoracic spine but it also means that this area of the spine is less prone to injury.  Thus a forward head posture we talked about earlier puts pressure on your thoracic spine but much more pressure on your cervical spine. The stability of the thoracic spine is part of the reason why the most people don’t have disc herniations in their mid back but have far more disc herniations in their neck.


This is so important as this affects what needs to be treated. Often times the pain is coming from the neck and not the thoracic spine. So your chiropractor needs to concentrate on the neck, even when you only have pain in the thoracic spine. In my experience I could just treat the neck and most people’s thoracic pain will either disappear or lessen greatly. For a smaller minority, I have to treat the mid back to get rid of the rest of the pain. Rarer still is the person that has pure thoracic spine pain.


The key is that your chiropractor needs to able to distinguish between pain from the cervical spine vs. pain from both the cervical spine and the thoracic spine vs pain from just the thoracic spine.



Herniated Cervical Disc: Learn what treatments are best: Downtown Toronto Chiropractor Dr. Ken Nakamura


3. The third reason the thoracic spine is special is that your nerve is located above the disc so will less likely be pinched. In the cervical (neck) spine and the lumbar (lower back) spine the disc and the nerve are exactly at the same level. This means that if your cervical disc herniates or your lumbar disc herniates it will more likely pinch on your nerve.  If your thoracic disc herniates you probably won’t feel a thing.


You might be thinking that’s horrible to have a disc herniation even though you can’t feel it. According to research 30% of 30 year old have disc herniations and have absolutely no symptoms in the lower back.  If fact “It is very rare for an MRI. to come back with the words ‘normal study,“ said Dr. Christopher DiGiovanni, a professor of orthopedics and a sports medicine specialist at Brown University. “I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen it.” From the New York Times


So if you took a whole body MRI you will likely find a few things wrong that will not likely cause you problems. Like your skin is not perfect there will be many spots and for the spine most people will have degeneration and disc herniations in the lower back and neck. While you may have thoracic disc herniations they likely are not causing any pain and are happily there not disturbing you.


What should you do?


If you are having no pain I would personally not do anything about it except for trying to have a good posture and getting up from your sitting position every two hours.


If you are having pain in your upper back I would get your neck treated.  If you are having pain in the lower part of the mid back likely it’s coming from the lower back.


Having said this most of you with pure thoracic pain can be helped with the exercises below.


Thoracic Extension for Thoracic Disc herniation: Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Picture Reference #1

Exercise #1 Thoracic Sitting Extension

  1. Sit down and put your hands behind your neck loosely.
  2. Arch your mid back backwards while bringing your elbows as high as you can go to assist.
  3. You will also be arching your lower back but this is OK.
  4. You may feel a bit sore. As long as the soreness decreases with repetition this is fine. If the soreness increases stop right away. Do the exercises 10 times 4 times a day.

How to Improve Posture: Foam Roll -Toronto Chiropractor

Exercise # 2 Foam Roll Thoracic Curve Reverse

  1. Put a hard foam roll on the floor.
  2. Put the roll under your mid-back in the area that you feel the pain.
  3. Lie on it for 30 seconds and work your way up five minutes
  4. You may feel a bit sore. As long as the soreness decreases with repetition this is fine. If the soreness increases stop right away. Do the exercises 10 times 4 times a day.


Exercise #3 The Cow

Best Mid Back Pain Exercises: doing backbend in cow posture, bitilasana, exercise for flexible spine and shoulders, asana paired with cat pose on the exhale, studio

  1. Get on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders.
  2. Inhale and let your belly fall downwards toward the floor as you look up toward the ceiling for 2 seconds.
  3. Repeat 10 times 4 times a day.
  4. You may feel a bit sore. As long as the soreness decreases with repetition this is fine. If the soreness increases stop right away. Do the exercises 10 times 4 times a day.


Exercise #4 Bruegger 

Bruegger exercise-Toronto Chiropractor

Picture Reference #2

  • Sit on the edge of a chair
  • Tuck in your chin
  • Turn your thumbs out and bring your arms behind you
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together and toward your tail bone.


Low Back Arch Test: Put both hands in the arch of your back. Push firmly forward as far as your low back will go until it stops. Notice that your head moves backwards. When you let go what do you notice? Your head goes forward.

So your low back is the foundation for your sitting posture. If your lower back isn’t in the right place than your neck and head won’t be in the right place. Leave your head for 8 hours like that everyday and you have the recipe for headaches, neck pain and you guessed it mid back pain.

Lumbar Support Roll: Help Your Posture and Mid Back Pain with A Lumbar Support Roll | Dr Ken Nakamura Downtown Toronto Chiropractor

Lumbar Support Roll For Your Mid Back {I don’t have any relationship or benefit in any way by endoring these products}

So if your chair doesn’t have enough support than first use a rolled up bath towel to see if you need more support. By using a towel you can unroll the towel to get less support and roll it more or use a bigger towel if you need more support. If it works and you are happy stick with the towel.

If you are tired of placing the towel in the arch of your back each time you sit down again then get yourself a lumbar support roll.


Picture Reference



Dr Ken Nakamura

12 Responses to The 4 Best Thoracic Disc Herniation Exercises | Mid Back Disc Herniation Exercises
  • Dee says:
    February 10, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Hi I have T10/11 thecal sac compression with ostephates
    and L4/5 protrusion leading to nerve compression my symptoms are numbness,tingling,weakness and pain in legs back and Perineum. What exercise can I do to a iOS further compression. Thank you.

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      February 11, 2020 at 11:47 am

      Thanks for your question Dee. You have what is possibly a yellow flag. You will need to follow-up with your family doctor, chiropractor or specialist as this perineum pain may be something more serious. I would follow-up with your health care provider as soon as possible. The above is an opinion and not a recommendation.

      Hope your situation turns out well.

      • Dee says:
        February 11, 2020 at 3:24 pm

        Thank you – what does the yellow flag indicate? Is it due to the T10/11 or the L4/5? You seem really knowledgeable and any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks Dee

        • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
          February 11, 2020 at 6:27 pm

          Any time you have perineum pain, numbness or tingling it means there could be pressure from your lower back onto the cauda equina (which is the leftover of the spinal cord- the spinal cord ends at L1 or L2 so the continuation of the spinal cord is a bunch of nerves that looks like a horse’s tail thus cauda which means back or rear end and equina which refers to horse). So the perineum pain or numbness or tingling can mean you have something more serious that needs to be looked at right away. It may also be unrelated and nothing serious but best be prudent and have someone look at it.

          Hope that helps. If you have any more questions I would be happy to answer your questions.

  • Brenda Hall says:
    January 26, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Loved reading this. I have tons of back problems and going to Emory Neurosurgery soon. So this was a lot of help. The pain in back AND KNEE from another recent fall set them all off! I appreciate all these options. Thank you again!

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      January 28, 2020 at 9:08 pm

      You are welcome Brenda. I hope you the best with your neurosurgery.

  • Dror says:
    March 19, 2019 at 3:16 am

    Hi There,
    It’s very kind of you to post exercises and reply to people, i was wondering,
    The exercises above are mostly stretching, do you think that maybe modified yoga exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscles will be more effective?

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      March 22, 2019 at 8:09 am

      Thanks for your question Dror. Most certainly strengthening exercises whether they are yoga or not can be helpful. Just don’t pick the one that strengthens but aggravate the thoracic disc, as many people do that with their lower back. The exercises I picked are designed to reduce the disc thus give a significant decrease in pain relief. Strengthening and stabilizing exercises will not do that. They will simply strengthen and stabilize. That is something you can do for the long-term health of the thoracic spine.

      The above is not a recommendation but an opinion. Hope that helps. If you have any more questions I would be more then happy to do my best to answer your questions.

  • Wendy Elicati says:
    March 10, 2018 at 12:49 am

    I have pain at the T9-10 level. Is hanging by a pullup bar by the hands and focusing stretching thru that area a good idea? I do it sometimes, but it is painful. Especially after the stretch, when I come back to standing

    • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
      March 29, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      Thanks for your question Wendy. I would recommend doing the cobra exercise but modify it so that you are keeping your hip on the floor. Here is a link that will explain how to do this. This way you will likely have pain when you come up but you can control it more.

      The above is an opinion and not a recommendation. Hope that helps your thoracic disc herniation.

      • Mayank kumar says:
        October 31, 2018 at 3:01 pm

        I have suffered d7-d8 bulge with thecal sac and epidural space compression with transversing nerve root please give suggestions and exercises

        • Dr Ken Nakamura says:
          January 13, 2019 at 8:09 pm

          Thanks for your question Mayank. You should do the exercises that I have in the article is that is what is causing your pain. Keep in mind with a thorough exam and history you may find that the thoracic disc herniation is just an incidental finding and not the cause of your pain. You really do need to write more about your symptoms than simply writing about your MRI or CT scan results. My experience is that you can have a thoracic disc herniation be sticking out one direction but functionally the disc behaves in a different way. In fact, discs move so the pain can switch sides and the symptoms will move based on the position of your body.

          Hope that helps. The above is an opinion and not a recommendation.

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