An integral part of my care as a chiropractor is to promote healthy forms of movement to my patients. One of the more common concerns my patients have is whether they are doing a movement correctly.
"Am I doing it right? What if I'm doing it wrong? Will I hurt myself if I am doing the exercise incorrectly?"
Simply my goals with patients are to start to implement movement strategies that are:
1) Low risk
2) High reward
3) High return on investment
The cat/cow mobilization is a great example of these principles and a personal favourite of mine to start with for the majority of my patients. If I could only give one movement to everyone in the hopes of improving their health, this is it! The main reasons I use the cat/cow mobilization with so many patients is because it addresses so many different problems at once:
- Global movement pattern involving full spine involvement
- Addresses proprioception (body awareness) to build a mind-body connection
- Easily transitions into future movement, strength, core stabilization strategies
Consequently, if everyone that came into my office already performed cat/cow mobilizations we would be able to progress people much faster in their care.
"Okay, show me the cat/cow mobilization already!"
Alright we are going to get onto our hands and knees so that our shoulder are directly above our wrists and our hips are directly above our shoulders. If we look from the side in the mirror it shoulder look like our body is in the shape of a rectangle or square. Our neck is in a neutral position so it is in a straight line with our back. Your feet can be flat on the ground or your toes can be curled underneath you; Whatever is the most comfortable.
We are going to start arch our back up towards the sky with bringing our chin to our chest. At the hip, picture if we were wearing a belt buckle we would go from the buckle pointing towards the ground to the belt buckle pointing towards our wrist. The point of this exercise is that everything is slowly moving at once as one unit and at the top of the position if we looking from the side in the mirror our spine looks like the top half of a circle. We would call this overall movement "flexion" in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.
From the top position we are going to slowly move back to the starting position and then continue to arch our back so that at the bottom position, if we are looking from the side in the mirror, our spine looks like the bottom half of a circle. The head will go back and the mid back will move down to the floor. At the hip, if we were wearing a belt buckle we would go from the buckle pointing straight down towards the ground to the belt buckle pointing back towards your feet. We would call this overall movement "extension" in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.
EXERCISE RECOMMENDED USE
Continue to move back and forth between the two positions for about 5 minutes total. It should take approximately 5 seconds to move from one position to the other. As you continue moving you will likely see an increase in your overall range of motion and the movement will start to feel smoother. An important thing to note is that this movement should not be painful. If you are having pain with this movement I would limit the movement in a pain-free zone. If there is no pain-free zone for the movement you are likely due for a check-in with your local chiropractor.
I hope the cat/cow mobilization will be useful to you whether you are using it for maintaining overall spinal health, using it for warm-ups before exercise, or as a catalyst to put you on a road to recovery from an injury.
If are near the Cowichan Valley and are looking for your local chiropractor, feel free to click book online to schedule an initial assessment and treatment with myself at Young Health Management.