Thoracic Rings and Treatment

Thoracic Rings and Treatment

The Thoracic Rings Approach™ “offers an innovative, unique physiotherapy perspective on the function of thoracic spine and ribcage (the thorax) and the role that the thorax plays in optimal function of the whole of the body and optimal health of the whole person.” This approach was created by Dr. LJ Lee, in Canada.

The thorax is our trunk or rib cage region. The thorax consists of spinal vertebrae (backbone), intervertebral discs (between the vertebrae), the ribs either side, rib cartilages and the sternum (breast bone). The rib cage contains the heart, lungs, and other important structures within a skeletal framework.

A Thoracic Ring = 2 x ribs + breast bone + vertebrae the two ribs connect in to.


The thorax or rib cage region has 3 major functions: 

  1. To support breathing
  2. To provide the stability from which the 4 limbs move and apply force
  3. To protect the organs


The rib cage is a major center of rotation and balance for the body.

The lower back does not rotate very much whereas the thorax does. The thorax is also the base of support on which the head, neck and shoulders move. For many of us, our lifestyle of sitting for extended periods of time causes compression of the spine and rib cage. Compression of these areas is one cause for stiffness and affects the muscles and limbs which rely on the thoracic rib cage mobility.

Thoracic Rings

The thorax is made up of 10 complete thoracic rings. A thoracic ring is made up of two ribs, a spinal vertebra (sometimes two) and the sternum. There are 10 thoracic rings and two floating ribs at the bottom (they are not connected at the front, therefore, are called floating). The rib cage is not solid or fixed like a birdcage, each ring rotates and moves on the ring above and below. It behaves a bit like a slinky.

Muscles attach from the thoracic rings to the shoulder, neck, abdomen, and lower back.

The thoracic rings can influence parts of the body far away from it by these connections.

If one or a few rings are stiff or pulled to one side by tight muscles it can affect your centre of mass and result in poor balance. Poor balance (from a stiff thorax) can affect the feet and ankles.  Headaches and shoulder pain are also common ailments seen from thoracic ring misalignments.

Thoracic Rings Approach™ and Treatment

Treatment involves identifying the particular rings that may not be moving as they should be and assessing the cause of that dysfunction.

Once the aberrant rings are identified, and the muscles or joints responsible for their dysfunction are identified, the rings are realigned gently by the therapist’s hands and by cues guiding you as to how to correct it yourself, which muscles to relax and allow the body to return to alignment. The muscles may need specific massage to release tension or laser or dry needling to help this process. The therapist will then teach you exercises to correct the alignment of your thoracic rings yourself and move the body using the correct muscles.

Treatment using the Thoracic Ring Approach™ restores good posture, better breathing, shoulder function and balance.


The yoga classes that we offer here at The Physio & Yoga Clinic reinforce the Thoracic Rings Approach providing ongoing exercise support and more tips for managing your postural and muscular corrections yourself, to give you optimal health and wellbeing.


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