Everett Chiropractic Center Blog

December 27, 2008

Basic Spine Exercises: The Cat-Camel

Filed under: Chiropractic — Tags: , , , , — doctordilday @ 10:30 pm
On the way to a fire...

On the way to a fire...

Most patients start care following an acute episode of low back pain or neck pain or headaches. Often these patients have suffered quite a while; and often they have failed to respond to other types of care. Once a patient has been adjusted their symptoms usually go away or diminish to a level where they slip below conscious awareness.

In order for a patient to maintain their corrections, we teach patients “daily practices” which are calculated to maintain the joint motion we create with a spinal adjustment. These exercises also retrain the muscles involved in stabilizing the area of the spine that has been dysfunctional and is now working more normally. Very importantly, these same exercises retrain the neurological pathways involved in the coordination of muscles surrounding the joints of the spine and the all of the pathways involved in balance, stability and movement that are affected by dysfunction of the involved joints.

Here I will review one of the Basic Spine Exercises that are inevitably recommended. Why these exercises? Because they are the best, the simplest, the cheapest, and the safest.

The Cat-Camel, like many exercises recommended by Chiropractic doctors, other doctors and physical therapists, is one borrowed from the world of Yoga. It’s usually the first exercise that I recommend because it enhances flexibility and creates the movement necessary to help acute injuries heal. It is also very safe and should be done without any pain. It’s important that patients are able to do something positive for their recovery, that will not hurt them. (See the “Chiropractic and Exercise” post)

To do the exercise you begin on your hands and knees. From there you raise the belly button up as far as it will go; then lower it as far as it will go. Done slowly and only as far as is comfortable, this motion is very powerful in helping to relieve back pain following a chiropractic adjustment which restores the normal motion to the injured joints.

Usually 10-12 repetitions are recommended to start with.

This exercise is often recommended on the second, third or fourth visit, depending on a patient’s response to care.

Here is a link to a YouTube demonstration of this exercise. Here the guy recommends holding in each position for three seconds. That’s not necessary; what’s important is that you feel the end range. At first you don’t even go all the way to the end because it’s tender; later you go to the end; even later you contract the muscles that would allow you to go further. At this point the exercise begins to become a strengthening exercise as well as a range of motion exercise. Keep track of your daily count and increase the number of reps until you are doing twenty or so – slowly. The speed on the video is just right.

Cautionary Note: Be very careful raising and lowering your head while doing this exercise. If you have a healthy neck it will be effective exercise for your neck; if your neck can’t take it, it will cause neck dysfunction and pain. I usually recommend not moving the head at all. It’s important to focus your attention on the part of the body that you are trying to train. Most patients have lost sensory awareness of their body parts and this is a time to re-gain some of that.

The secret (yeah, right – it’s a secret) to effective rehabilitation of injured back muscles is daily practice and slow steady progressions in difficulty. This, of course, is where it becomes as much an art as a science.

Once you are doing 20 reps daily and have for a period of weeks, it’s time to progress to other, more difficult exercises.



  1. […] (Dorsal Twist) Basic Spine Exercises (Sphynx) Basic Spine Exercises (Million Dollar Neck Exercise) Basic Spine Exercises (Cat-Camel) w/ link to YouTube demo video Multifidi, Dr. Slosberg, Stuart McGill “It’s all there.” A Story by a Tai Chi teacher, a very […]

    Pingback by Index of Chiropractic, Tai Chi and other Wellness Posts « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — August 13, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  2. […] always the first exercise we recommend is the Cat/Camel. It’s easy to do, easy on the patient, and it introduces voluntary movement that is safe. […]

    Pingback by Getting Out of Back Pain With Chiropractic Care « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — June 12, 2012 @ 2:00 am

  3. […] transition from IN pain to OUT of pain: one is mostly about breathing and awareness (2), the other (the Cat/Camel) is more of a movement pattern with a little more awareness. Together these two amount to a “warm […]

    Pingback by “Core” Training Spinal Stabilization Exercise for Low Back Pain « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — January 18, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  4. […] 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 […]

    Pingback by The “Why” of Exercise: Holding Your Adjustments | Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — October 31, 2015 @ 10:04 am

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