Range of motion of thoracic spine in sagittal plane


Study design

Imaging study of thoracic spine.


The purpose of this study was to investigate dynamic alignment and range of motion (ROM) at all segmental levels of thoracic spine.

Summary of background data

Thoracic spine is considered to have restricted ROM because of restriction by the rib cage. However, angular movements of thoracic spine can induce thoracic compressive myelopathy in some patients. Although few previous studies have reported segmental ROM with regard to sagittal plane, these were based on cadaver specimens. No study has reported normal functional ROM of thoracic spine.


Fifty patients with cervical or lumbar spinal disease but neither thoracic spinal disease nor compression fracture were enrolled prospectively in this study (34 males, 16 females; mean age 55.4 ± 14.7 years; range 27–81 years). After preoperative myelography, multidetector-row computed tomography scanning was performed at passive maximum flexion and extension position. Total and segmental thoracic kyphotic angles were measured and ROM calculated.


Total kyphotic angle (T1/L1) was 40.2° ± 11.4° and 8.5° ± 12.8° in flexion and extension, respectively (P < 0.0001). The apex of the kyphotic angle was at T6/7 in flexion. Total ROM (T1/L1) was 31.7° ± 11.3°. Segmental ROM decreased from T1/2 to T4/5 but increased gradually from T4/5 to T12/L1. Maximum ROM was at T12/L1 (4.2° ± 2.1°) and minimum at T4/5 (0.9° ± 3.0°).


Thoracic spine showed ROM in sagittal plane, despite being considered a stable region. These findings offer useful information in the diagnosis and selection of surgical intervention in thoracic spinal disease.

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No funds were received to support this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Daigo Morita.

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Morita, D., Yukawa, Y., Nakashima, H. et al. Range of motion of thoracic spine in sagittal plane. Eur Spine J 23, 673–678 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-013-3088-7

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  • Range of motion
  • Thoracic spine
  • Sagittal plane
  • Multidetector-row CT
  • Dynamic alignment