There are three exercises recognized (in the literature on such things) as helpful in developing core lower back strength in the management of low back pain – very little else is clearly recommended based on the research when it comes to low back pain. They are the Side Bridge, the Abdominal Crunch, and the Bird Dog. Known as the Big Three, these are strengthening exercises, but they are much more than that.
(Note: two things, first you don’t get to do strength training exercises while you are in pain; we now know that that isn’t a good idea. There are a few “exercises” that we give people very early in their recovery but they are more movement patterns than exercises and their purpose is specific to maintaining joint motion and helping patient hold their adjustments. Second, these (The Big Three) are strength training exercises primarily so don’t confuse them with flexibility exercises or exercises for some other purpose. I am a big on you knowing why you do what you do.)
Now what I want to say about the Bird Dog is that it’s quite a good exercise, much under-rated and under-utilized. With it, first off you discover (meaning it can be a test) whether your balance and control are what they should be. It’s progressive so there are at least 4 different levels of difficulty – you find out where you loose control/balance by starting easy and working up.
And because they are strength exercises, you can use the 3-5 Protocol to progress in strength. Progression in strength naturally means a progression in balance/motor control. And this balance/motor control is critical if you want to gain low back stability, hold adjustments, and fully recover (beyond just pain relief – so you can prevent relapse!!) and attain normal function.
Normal function, by the way, is usually the goal of care once pain relief is achieved… for those who are interested in not re-living their pain any time soon. And who wouldn’t want to be at least normal anyway, right?
A side benefit of the Bird Dog is the benefit it offers the shoulders in terms of range of motion and stabilizing strength – the same could be said for the hips (where many people do not extend as far as they should when they walk).
Another benefit (and the real reason that I wanted to write this Post) is that doing the Bird Dog is an opportunity to practice the Breathing and Bracing that we teach patients. All of it together is important. Doing it all together as a practice (meaning regularly) will create the results that you want.
One caution that often does not get taught is the need for maintaining Neutral Spine. After talking about that for 10 minutes in reference to the lower back, often the neck is not noticed and the person doing the exercise has the neck in full or near full extension. Keep it in neutral (you will be looking at the floor in other words).
I am getting interrupted but the idea of this Post is that the Bird Dog really is a very good exercise and you should do it more often and longer – you should also do it in ways that are “novel” and “challenging” to get the most benefit.
You, and your chiropractor, will notice the difference. Here is Dr. Oz doing the Bird Dog… toward the end. Ignore most of the rest of it.
I looked for a decent photo to put on this Post but had technical issues (most were not that good anyway). Maybe I will work out something later, I have to go…