Pelvic tilts are to physical therapists what Cat/Cow is to Yogis…sort of. The traditional pelvic tilt is performed while lying on your back with your knees bent, feet on the mat or floor you are lying on. In this position you tilt your pelvis posteriorly while attempting to flatten your back onto the mat. You then relax and repeat. I also add an anterior tilt, which is rolling the pelvis anteriorly while attempting to arch the low back. Traditional Cat/Cow is performed on hands and knees. Sagging the back to the floor and looking up is performed with inhalation and rounding the back to the ceiling is performed with exhalation. For each exercise, pelvic tilts and Cat/Cow, the motion is repeated several times.
So why are we doing this?
The simplest answer I give is to create natural movement of the spine. Pelvic tilts limit motion to the low spine and hips. Cat/Cow allows movement throughout the entire spine, ribcage, shoulder blades, pelvis, and hips. So more movement can be achieved in the “all 4s” position than while lying on the back.
Another reason is to create awareness; i.e. awareness of what parts of the body do and don’t move and also activation of core muscles. I suggest people close their eyes and try to sense each vertebra moving on the one above or below it. In doing this feel the sensations of the body; i.e. stiffness, pain, freedom of movement, etc. For the beginning of core activation, flattening the back helps to activate the abdominal muscles and arching the back helps to activate the deep back muscle, multifidus.
Why is this movement good?
- Breathing along with movement helps to first get Oxygen into the bloodstream, and second, helps to promote blood flow to areas of the spine that might not have the best circulation, like the discs.
- The body wants to move. Most likely you have been sitting or standing in one position for too many hours. This natural movement, whether performed in sitting, standing, all 4s, supine or prone feels good.
- Pain control. Many years ago, I read a study where the motions of pelvic tilting were used for pain control. So try it! When your back feels stiff or painful, try the pelvic tilts or Cat/Cow.
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