When we see the average new patient they are in pain. Relief is the first objective. To get there we adjust their spinal subluxations and give them instructions, usually recommending ice (and often recommending they throw their heating pad away!)
Right away, usually before the pain is gone if it takes days or weeks, we also start talking about bracing. Since they have to move some anyway – pain or not – they need to know how to brace to protect themselves from making things worse.
Then, once a patient’s pain is down (and if we aren’t too distracted by having to show them how to bend and lift or how to get up and down off the ground correctly – we usually do that later in the ideal world), we can start talking to patients about “exercises”.
The minute we give someone instructions of any kind we focus on a review of the what, why, how, when, and who. Too often people stress the what… and loose the game.
The “why” of the first 5-6 exercises is this: keep the joints that were adjusted moving. These are also the exercises, usually, that answer the ongoing question (in the weeks, months, and years to come) of how a person takes care of their spine (They do these exercises most days, get adjusted once in a while, and maybe do a few other things.).
If a patient doesn’t know why they are doing something, eventually they won’t be doing it (sooner rather than later). If they do know why, then it’s an informed choice to do or not do the exercise.
Another word to use when referring to keeping the joints of the body freed up and moving properly, and it’s a very good word, is “articulate”: when we do these (and other exercises) our joints articulate properly. When you do the Tai Chi Hand Form, all the joints of the body usually get articulated; same with yoga, horse back riding, etc. (Note: makes you think about what dis-articulated looks like doesn’t it?)
Each exercise we give to the new patient addresses a different set of specific joints that, previously, were not moving properly, stuck, and subluxated. Once we have adjusted those joints so that they move, the patient needs to do two things: (1) First, not do whatever it was that they were doing that caused the subluxations in the first place; and (2) keep those joints moving (the joints will have a tendency to return to the stuck, subluxated, state (for several reasons we can talk about later if we need to)).
So when you hear the terms Figure 8s, think neck; when you hear the term Brugger’s, think mid back, shoulders and chest. The Cat/camel exercise is a mobility exercise that generally moves the entire lower spine; and the Offset Cat/camel specifically keeps the sacro-iliac joints freed up (an antidote to sitting too much). The hamstring muscle stretch does stretch the hamstrings, but it also sets you up to articulate the hip sockets, which is critical in many cases of back pain recovery. And so on.
The Point: We don’t want to waste your time. We only give you want you need, when you need it. I wouldn’t give it to you if I didn’t think it was important. You get to decide if you think it’s important enough to you to do it.