Thoracic Rings Approach

The Thoracic Rings – what are they?

The thorax (rib cage) is made up of thoracic rings. A thoracic ring is made up of two ribs connecting firmly by ligaments and muscles to the spinal vertebrae and the breast bone (sternum).


Thoracic Ring = 2 x Ribs + breastbone + vertebrae forming a ring (marked in green).

There are 10 thoracic rings in the rib cage and two floating ribs at the bottom (they don’t complete a ring therefore are theoretically a ring). The rib cage is not solid or fixed like a bird cage, each ring rotates and moves on the ring above and below, a bit like a slinky or hula hoops stacked one on top of the other.

Muscles attach to the thoracic rings from the shoulder, neck, abdominal muscles, and lower back. Through muscular connections, misalignment, or tightness in one or more of the thoracic rings areas elsewhere in the body can be affected. Sometimes this is far away from the source eg your feet.


How do they affect us?

If one or a few rings are stiff (lacking rotation one or both ways) or pulled more to one side by a tight muscle it can affect our balance and result in extra forces elsewhere in the body to compensate. Poor balance can result, this is particularly common when the ribcage is arches forward stiffening it up (kyphosis). Foot pain, knee pain, low back pain, shoulder pain and even headaches can be the result of thoracic ring imbalance.


“The thorax plays a role in optimal function of the whole of the body and optimal health of the whole person.” Dr. LJ Lee, Canada.


The thorax is the mid-section of our body and protects the heart, lungs, and other important structures within a skeletal framework.


The thorax or rib cage region has 3 major functions:

  • To support the breath
  • To provide the stability from which the limbs move and apply force
  • To protect the heart and lungs


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

Once the rings are identified, the muscles or joints responsible are identified and released or mobilised. This is very gentle technique using specialised skills of a specially trained therapist. A-J is qualified up to level 4 doing a final complete year of training.

The thoracic rings are realigned gently by the therapist’s hands and you are taught cues guiding you how to correct them yourself. First the bones are realigned, tight muscles released and cues given to activate muscle patterns to allow the body to return to normal alignment.


Here at Physio Body & Sole, Crows Nest we treat thoracic rings and provide ongoing exercise support and tips for managing your postural and muscular corrections yourself. Our aim is to empower you to help yourself.


*Tensegrity: the property of a skeletal structure having continuous tension members (such as muscles and ligaments) and discontinuous compression members (such as bones) so that each member performs efficiently in producing a rigid form. This enables us to reach up to the top shelf to get an object down, or throw or kick a ball