In today’s video Dr. Oliver will show you how to do the Cat and Cow Stretch. The Cat-Cow exercise is one of the best spinal stretches out the to alleviate back pain. Watch it below.
Cat And Cow Stretch Video:
Hi. My name is Dr. David Oliver, and I’m a chiropractor.
I’m coming to you from BackIntelligence.com and today, we’re going to go through how to do the cat and cow stretch effectively. The cat cow is a great stretch for your low back. It’s probably one of the number one stretches I show all my patients to do.
How to do the Cat And Cow Pose
The most important movement or a thing to grasp initially with this that I find most people have the hardest time to do is actually where the movement originates.
It’s actually going to come from your pelvis and your hips. So if you were to start just in a kneeling position and you’re going to just tilt your pelvis anterior and posterior or front and back. If we tuck our pelvis under, basically stick your butt backwards, you will get a curve in your low back. Or if you tilt it the opposite way, you bring your pelvis forward, you’re going to flatten your low back….
That’s the motion we’re going to do, but we’re going to do it in the all-fours position.
So we want to go down into all fours. Essentially your knees should be directly under your hips and your hands should be directly under your shoulders. You don’t want to be out here. You want to stay in a nice, neutral position. We’re going to start that movement again from our hips.
So we’re going to tilt that hip forward and that’s going to increase the curvature in your low back.
At the same time, you’re going to have your head extend backwards.
Then we’re going to reverse that. So our head is going to move forward as our back moves up into this position. This is what is known as the cat portion. You’re stretching up like a cat. So you’re getting a really good tuck at your pelvis. You’re pushing up through your chest, expanding your shoulder blades and keeping your head down. So as we move down, we drop the belly down. We’re going to tilt the head backwards. This is what they call the cow position.
So we’re oscillating back and forth between that cat stretch. Spread those shoulder blades apart and then we’re going to go back down. Drop your belly and drop your head back, back into the cow. Then we’re going to repeat. It’s nice and slow for these movements. If you hit a point that doesn’t feel comfortable, you stop and you move the other direction.
So again, you’re looking to slowly move between these positions. So into that cat, down into the cow, and you’re just going nice and slow and you’re going to try and repeat this 10 to 15 times.
Tips For Cat And Cow Stretch
Try to maintain normal breathing. You don’t have to breathe in or out in any particular order. You’re just trying to maintain normal breathing. This should be very relaxing and it should actually feel good.
Another thing to pay attention to in the Cat and Cow pose is position.
So you want those hands again directly under those shoulders. You don’t want them in front of you and you don’t want them behind you. So you want them directly under your shoulder joints and the same with the knee. The knee should be directly under your hip. So position is crucial. The other thing that I tend to see with most people that they do wrong is the movement.
So instead of moving up and down, many people start to add in some forward and back motions. So many people will start to move forward and back. So you don’t want to see any movement like this. That’s not the idea. The idea is just a general spinal stretch, which is up and down. So again, up, getting mostly that movement from tucking that pelvis under you, posteriorly and then dropping it down, basically sticking your butt out. So it’s an up and down motion. It’s not a forward and back motion.
Things To Avoid
Now it’s really important that they adhere to certain rules when they do this exercise.
You don’t want to be pushing through a lot of pain. Some people, when they do stretches, they do exercises, they think, you know, I got to break through that pain or the more pain I get, the better. I can really push through it. That’s not the idea with this exercise. You’re supposed to maintain the pain-free range of motion and after time, after doing this repeatedly, that should actually expand.
So if we’re into the stretch and we start to go up and we hit a point where it starts to really bother us and it feels uncomfortable on our back, the idea is not to power through that. We want to stop at that point and then reverse and go the opposite direction.
Some patients I have initially that have really acute low back pain, they’re only moving this much and that’s OK. As they do that over the course of a few days, that range of motion should slowly start to expand and eventually we should get normal, pain-free ranges of motion. But if you sit there and you power through that pain and you really try to break through it, you can actually inflame those tissues and make things worse and you’re really not doing anything effective. So stick through the pain-free range when you do this exercise.
Cat And Cow Modification For Upper Back
So the cat cow is an excellent overall spinal mobility stretch and like I said, I teach all my patients that stretch. But a lot of patients will come into me or a lot of people will have restriction actually in their upper back or their thoracic spine and it has to do with those extended periods of sitting that they have. So there’s a modification to the cat cow we can do where we really target the upper back more and we can really push through the ranges of motion that we need in that area. So instead of being in this all-fours position here, we’re actually just going to sit back.
You’re going to sit your butt to your heels and you’re going to bring your hands right in front of your knees. With your toes, this again does not matter. You can be in a tuck position or in a flat position. It’s whatever you feel comfortable with. I prefer to be in a slightly tucked position with the toes to get a little bit of stretch out of the bottom of my foot.
So from this position, now that we’re sitting down, your low back, they call it lumbar lock. That’s not moving anymore. It’s very hard for us to tilt through our low back. Most of this motion is going to come through our thoracic spine or our upper back.
So the same movements apply. So now we’re going to be pushing through our chest and try and expand and push up. So the motion is going to look like this. Your chest is going to come up and your head is going to go down. Then you’re going to reverse that. You’re going to allow your chest to come forward and through while your head comes back and you reverse that. At this point, you really want to feel those shoulder blades try to spread apart and really throw your thoracic spine up. You really want to push through and then reverse it.
As you come down, you almost want to picture someone with a string pulling you just forward and up and then back the other way. So push through that T spine, that upper back and then reverse. It’s almost like you’re howling at the moon here at the end here. You’re just getting that chest as high as you can and you’re just moving.
I hope you enjoyed today’s video. And if you did, please like it and share it with a friend.
Related exercises for upper back pain relief:
Upper Back pain between shoulder blades exercises
Related exercises for lower back pain relief:
How to ease lower back pain naturally
7 Herniated disc exercises
Best ways to sleep with lower back pain
Video by: Dr. David Oliver
Visit his chiropractic office here.
Dr. Oliver has been practicing in Massachusetts since 2007. He is a graduate of Marist College where he received a Pre-Med Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Dr. Oliver then went on to pursue his chiropractic career by attending Palmer College of Chiropractic West, where he graduated Cum Laude. Dr. Oliver has his diploma in rehabilitation, which allows him to combine rehab and corrective exercise with traditional chiropractic treatment. This gives his patients better long term results.
K Sridhar says
Thank you for the video on cat and cow exercise. I started doing all 7 exercises, doing as gently as possible without hurting my back. I feel an improvement is happening to my lower back.
Hi I’m getting over my herniated disc pain still got a tiny bit of pain in my thigh but nothing like I had 8 weeks ago walking around better so started to do the excersises will they prevent me having flare ups thank you
Jackie Callaghan says
Amazingly clear concise and thorough videos to help with posture and back pain. This is by far the best set of videos to help with every kind of back ailment. Thank you so much for making them and putting them out there.
I am so much more aware of my posture and it’s effect on my body and how it contributes to my back pain. Thank you again.
Leon Turetsky (NASM-CPT, NASM-CES) says
Glad you found it useful Jackie!
I have (had) two herniated disks at my lower spine. Is cat cow ok for this condition?
Leon Turetsky (NASM-CPT, NASM-CES) says
We don’t give medical advice, but you can try the Cat-Cow to see if helps alleviate some of your pain. It’s a good exercise to decompress the spine, but may not be enough. Please check out the herniated disc exercises here for more exercise to try: https://backintelligence.com/herniated-disc-exercises/
I have to walk in a 90 degree position so I find it hard to stand anywhere near straight. Any suggestions for remedy or pain relief. I have bee n like this for 5 weeks. I am doing the cat/ cow and started iceing. Appreciate any help
Leon T (Founder of BackIntelligence) says
Hey Tom, We cannot diagnose your condition based on what you said. You should seek medical advice from someone local in your area.