How to Do a Thread the Needle Exercise: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a thread the needle exercise to improve back mobility and shoulder flexibility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Jan 2, 2024
Thread the needle exercise

How to Do a Thread the Needle Exercise: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a thread the needle exercise to improve back mobility and shoulder flexibility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Jan 2, 2024
Thread the needle exercise

How to Do a Thread the Needle Exercise: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a thread the needle exercise to improve back mobility and shoulder flexibility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Jan 2, 2024
Thread the needle exercise

How to Do a Thread the Needle Exercise: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a thread the needle exercise to improve back mobility and shoulder flexibility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Jan 2, 2024
Thread the needle exercise
Table of Contents

If your upper body feels tight after a looong day at work or an epic game of table tennis, this yoga pose can be just the thing to help melt that tension. The position stretches the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders, and the gentle twisting motion offers a nice release for your spine. 

Adding stretching moves like this to your regular movement routine can improve your mobility, flexibility, and strength — all of which are important for so much more than just general fitness. They help you do everyday tasks more effortlessly and with less pain.

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Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

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What Is a Thread the Needle Exercise?

Thread the needle is a stretch that primarily targets the muscles in your upper back and shoulders. The motion mimics threading a piece of string sideways through a needle — which is where the name comes from.

What Muscles Does Thread the Needle Work? 

Deltoids. This group of muscles is like a cap that sits on and surrounds your shoulder joints. It allows you to move your arm in different directions. Thread the needle stretches your deltoids —  particularly the rear deltoids on the back of your body.

Latissimus dorsi are muscles that are located on the sides of the upper back by your shoulder blades. 

Thoracic spine. This refers to the middle section of your spine. It’s situated between the cervical spine (at the neck) and the lumbar spine (your low back). The thoracic spine is commonly referred to as the mid back. It provides structural support to the body and offers protection for the spinal cord and internal organs such as the heart and lungs. 

Erector spinae are muscles that run along either side of your spine. They’re involved in back extension, rotation, and stabilization. 

Benefits of Thread the Needle

Less back pain. Improved core strength — through moves such as Bird Dog — has been to reduce back pain and improve quality of life. 

Reduced muscle tension in your back, neck, and shoulders.

Increased flexibility, especially if you work at a computer a lot, or do other tasks that focus on your upper body.

Thread the Needle: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Thread The Needle

Thread The Needle

Thread The Needle

Thread The Needle

To do thread the needle:

  • On a yoga mat, start on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders and hips under your knees.

  • Lift one hand off the floor and reach it underneath your stomach to your opposite side, as you let your shoulder lower toward the floor. Allow your chest and head to rotate as you do this gentle twist.

  • Twist as far as is comfortable, and hold the stretch 

  • Slowly return to the starting position.  

  • Repeat on the other side.

  • As you do each rep, you might feel a stretch in your back, shoulder, arm and hips.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs. 

Thread The Needle Modifications

Thread The Needle Modifications

Thread The Needle Modifications

Thread The Needle Modifications

To make thread the needle easier:  

  • Rather than reaching your arm under your stomach, rest your forearm on the floor and hold the stretch. 

To make thread the needle harder: 

  • Rest the side of your head and your shoulder on the floor to deepen the stretch as you hold the stretch. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Tahran, Ö., & Yeşilyaprak S. S. (2020). Effects of Modified Posterior Shoulder Stretching Exercises on Shoulder Mobility, Pain, and Dysfunction in Patients with Subacromial Impingement Syndrome. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, vol. 12, no. 2, p. 194173811990053. doi:10.1177/1941738119900532

  2. Aartolahti, E., et al. (2019). Long-Term Strength and Balance Training in Prevention of Decline in Muscle Strength and Mobility in Older Adults. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 59–66. doi:10.1007/s40520-019-01155-0

  3. Thomas, E., et al. (2021). Peripheral Nerve Responses to Muscle Stretching: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 258–267. doi:10.52082/jssm.2021.258

  4. Magawa, N., et al. (2023). The Impact of Stretching Intensities on Neural and Autonomic Responses: Implications for Relaxation. Sensors, vol. 23, no. 15, p. 6890. doi:10.3390/s23156890