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Virtually everyone experiences upper and lower back stiffness from time to time. Whether you deal with stiffness frequently or on occasion, the spine opener mobilization can help. This stretch is particularly useful to know because it provides a great overall mobility routine for the hips through the lumbar spine (lower back) all the way up and through the top of the thoracic spine (upper back). It is highly effective because it uses a variety and combination of movements to work through tight areas – the specific combination of movements has been refined to address the most common causes of spine stiffness.

Could this help you?

If you are experiencing upper or lower back stiffness (or both), this stretch is worth trying. It is especially good for addressing postural strain/fatigue from prolonged activities (Zoom meetings anyone?) as well as back issues that arise from the pelvis. Many of our patients find that this mobility routine is especially helpful for spine stiffness that arises from long-standing SI joint issues.

What you’ll need

A mat or comfortable spot on the floor, a stiff spine and a device to watch the video and follow along.


Restore thoracic, lumbar and hip mobility to reduce tension and discomfort throughout your upper and lower back.

Learn how to apply the cues and motions from this stretch in a way that helps your everyday movement patterns, such as looking over your shoulder while driving, reaching across your body, throwing, running, just about anything!

Exercise overview

This stretch involves three main parts:

1. Spine twist

2. Spine twist + flexion

3. Thread the needle

The video below include cues for various positions in the stretch that you should pay attention to. Before trying the spine opener for the first time, it can be helpful to watch the video all the way
through to better understand the steps and cues. As you practice the steps a few times, everything will start to come together and flow naturally.

Frequency and tips

  • Start with one time a day (each side of your body)
  • Repeat each movement five times and generally try to keep moving rather than holding a position
  • Though it generally works better to keep the motion going (slowly, if you are especially tight) rather than holding a certain position, it is okay to linger in any positions that feel especially good.
  • Repeat multiple times through the day if you are at a sedentary job or doing prolonged activities that lead to spinal stiffness

Bonus: Try the thoracic medicine ball routine first to really improve your motion and the benefits of the spinal opener.

How to stay safe

Follow the cues in the video to understand how to find restrictions and avoid overstretching around those areas.

If you start to notice any sharp pains or burning sensations, back off of the stretch and talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing.

Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise.

We’re here to help

Once you have your technique dialed in, the spine opener is an easy and convenient way to deal with back stiffness wherever you may be. If you have questions about any of the movements or aren’t sure if you’re doing something right, we’re always happy to walk you through the exercise here at the clinic next time you come in.