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Back Pain Exercises – The Bird Dog

November 8, 2010

This is the second back pain exercise in a series of four.  As with any of these exercises, here are a couple of things to note:

  • If you currently have back pain, do not start these exercises.  Although movement and exercise are important factors in recovery, it can set up a bad pattern.  As well, if you start to feel pain while doing the exercises, then stop.  Your body is telling you that it isn’t ready for them, you’re doing too much too soon, or you’re doing them wrong.  Whatever the case is, it’s best to see a health professional familiar with these exercises.
  • Remember that this exercise incorporates the main principles of healthy back exercises set out in Low Back Pain – Exercise Principles.

Now let’s get started.  Position yourself on the floor, or on a mat so that you are on your hands and knees with both about shoulder width apart.  Ensure that your low back is in a neutral position (it’s good to have someone watch you do this initially so that they can tell you if you’re positioned correctly.  Often what we think is neutral can be a fair bit off).  With your back in that neutral position, actively brace all of your core muscles.

First, try this – The Arms…

Slowly, while maintaining form, reach one arm forward as though you were pointing ahead.  Then slowly bring the arm back down.  Practice this motion a few times with the same arm and then with the other.  (see the front half of the image below)

Then try this – The Legs…

Slowly, while maintaining form, reach one leg behind you and then slowly bring it back down.  Ensure that you don’t twist your back or hip to raise your leg.  Steadying a hard cover book balanced over your hips will keep you in line (if it falls off you know you’re moving too much).  Again, practice a few times with each leg.  (see the back half of the image below)

Now put it all together…

Using opposite sides, simultaneously reach out one arm and one leg while maintaining good form.  Slowly bring your arm and leg back.  But instead of placing your hand and knee back down, keep your weight off them and just touch them together before repeating the motion again.  Start with five reps per side and work up to twenty.

A few more things to note:

  • You may notice that balancing on only one hand and knee is tricky.  That’s good.  It means that your core muscles need the work.  Keep at it and you’ll get steadier as time goes.
  • This is not an arm/leg exercise.  The goal is not to get your arms and legs high in the air.  The goal is to use your arms and legs to dynamically change the forces that your core must compensate for.  If you bring your arm and leg up too high your back will go into extension and good form is compromised.
  • Perform the motions slowly and purposefully.  You’re not trying to crank out repetitions while following a Jane Fonda thigh burner video.  Keep good form.

For more information on exercise and back pain relief contact your Guelph Chiropractor at Clear Path Chiropractic Health Centre in Guelph Ontario.

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