Perform 8 rotations per side each night, or when symptoms arise. Use regularly until symptoms have resolved, and several times a week after symptoms have resolved to maintain mobility.
One of the movements we lose in the spine as we stiffen is rotation, or the ability to twist. The joints in the mid-back are responsible for most of our rotation, so when they become hunched and stiff it can result in compensation by the neck and lower back, which can lead to symptoms. This exercise stretches the spine, ribcage, and shoulder in order to improve rotation.
This exercise can be performed with or without a fulcrum like a towel or foam roll under the rib cage. The benefit of the fulcrum is that it can mobilize the ribcage and surrounding tissues more directly as you rotate. The exercise can still be effective without one, and you may want to practice this exercise a few times before using a foam roller as a fulcrum.
Lie on your side on the floor with the fulcrum somewhere between the armpit and the bottom rib, the top knee on the ground in front of the straightened bottom leg, and the bottom arm stretched out directly in front of you. Trace the fingers of the top hand along the floor in an arc that travels from your bottom arm, above your head, and around to the opposite side of your body.
At first, you may not be able to keep the fingers in contact with the floor throughout the entire movement, and it’s okay to lift them off in order to complete the rotation. The goal is to create a comfortable stretch in the chest, mid-back, and rib cage.
Hold at the maximally rotated position while you take several diaphragmatic breaths. Repeat the exercise with the fulcrum placed in three different locations along the rib cage before transitioning to the other side.
• Doing too much, too fast. Start this exercise with a small fulcrum and gently work through the range of motion. Starting with a foam roll and rotating quickly can lead to discomfort. As your range of motion and stretch tolerance increases, increase the size of the fulcrum while keeping the range of motion gentle and slow.
You should perform 8 repetitions with the towel in three different positions on each side before progressing.