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How to Avoid Taking Damage to Your Spinal Joints

When mobilizing the joints of the thoracic spine in the mid-back region, it’s important to apply pressure in the direction of the natural plane of the joint surfaces, which, which viewed from a person’s back, is upward toward the head at about 45 degrees.

In my experience, most practitioners will apply straight downward pressure, as this will also induce movement within the joints. Unfortunately, pressure that is applied straight posterior to anterior will put some stress on the joint surfaces (the facets of the intervertebral joints in most of the thoracic spinal region).

A short amplitude thrust isn’t even necessary to mobilize the thoracic spine. In fact, for the vast majority of people I treated over the years, I mostly utilized gentle but firm pressure, going with the plane of the joint surfaces.

As a general rule, I feel it’s always prudent to warm up the paraspinal muscles with light massage before mobilizing the spine, as this helps prevent unnecessary strains and sprains of surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

If a short amplitude thrust is going to be applied, it’s always helpful to first remove tissue slack with an appropriate amount of pressure with the hands, as shown in this video.

This post isn’t meant to encourage people to self-treat or to treat their family members and friends. In the vast majority of cases, it’s safe to do this in conservative fashion for loved ones, but it’s prudent to work with a licensed health care provider who will know to first assess for contraindications to joint mobilization.


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