How to Do Cat Cow: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a cat cow stretch to help with back pain and mobility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

woman-doing-cat-cow-stretch-on-yoga-mat

How to Do Cat Cow: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a cat cow stretch to help with back pain and mobility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

woman-doing-cat-cow-stretch-on-yoga-mat

How to Do Cat Cow: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a cat cow stretch to help with back pain and mobility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

woman-doing-cat-cow-stretch-on-yoga-mat

How to Do Cat Cow: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a cat cow stretch to help with back pain and mobility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

woman-doing-cat-cow-stretch-on-yoga-mat
Table of Contents

Whether you’re dealing with back pain related to sitting in one position for hours at a time, arthritis, or some other combination of factors, back pain can really throw a wrench in your day. But spending time on exercises that improve your flexibility and mobility can reduce pain and make it easier to perform day-to-day activities. 

One helpful exercise is the cat cow, which you may have already practiced in a yoga class. By gently stretching your spine in an arched and rounded position, cat cow can help keep your back — and other parts of your body — strong and healthy. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is Cat Cow?

Cat cow is an exercise that gently stretches your spine as you arch it up toward the ceiling and sink it down toward the floor. It’s often practiced in yoga, but because it’s such an effective way to promote flexibility and mobility, it’s also used in physical therapy. 

What Muscles Does Cat Cow Work?

As you arch toward the ceiling and sink toward the floor, cat cow gently stretches your back muscles, relieving tension that may cause pain or make it difficult to function in everyday life. This includes the erector spinae, which runs the length of the spine on both sides, as well as smaller muscles around the vertebrae. 

Other muscles stretched include: 

  • Abdominal muscles as you pull your belly toward your spine. 

  • Shoulder and neck muscles including the trapezius, deltoids, and the smaller muscles that support the cervical spine (neck).

  • Gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) as you arch your back and lift your tailbone toward the ceiling.

  • Hip flexors and extensors at the front of your hips (like the iliopsoas) and back (like the gluteus maximus).

  • Pelvic floor muscles also get a workout as you alternate between tucking your tailbone under and lifting it up.

Cat Cow Benefits

It may be a simple exercise, but cat cow packs a big punch. After doing cat cow, you may notice: 

  • Improved flexibility and mobility

  • Better balance

  • Stronger core 

  • Less tension in your back and neck

  • Greater ability to move your body without pain or injury

Cat Cow: Exercises and Modifications

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Cat Cow

Cat Cow

Cat Cow

Cat Cow

Tap into pain relief. Anytime, anywhere with our app.

Get exercises from a licensed physical therapist and more to relieve your pain. All right from your phone. At $0 cost to you.
Start your app tour

To do cat cow: 

  • Start on your hands and knees. You can do this on a yoga mat or another comfortable surface. Your hands should be positioned under your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. 

  • Slowly round your entire back toward the ceiling while drawing your chin to your chest. 

  • Return to the starting position. 

  • Look up to the ceiling as you arch your back toward the floor. 

  • Return to the starting position.

Cat Cow Modifications

Cat Cow Modifications

Cat Cow Modifications

Cat Cow Modifications

To make cat cow easier:

  • Decrease your range of motion by limiting how much you move your back and neck in the cat and cow positions. 

  • You could also try a standing cat cow, using either a chair or a wall for support instead of doing the stretch on all fours. 

To make cat cow harder:  

  • Exaggerate the motions. Imagine making a rainbow shape when rounding your back toward the ceiling and the shape of a smile when arching your back toward the floor.

  • You could also try adding knee lifts to the stretch. From the tabletop position, lift your knees a couple  inches off the ground before moving into the ‘cat’ and ‘cow’ poses. This will add an extra challenge for your core.

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

$0 Cost to you

Looking for pain relief? Check if your employer or health plan covers our program

Join more than 800K members and 1250 companies that trust Hinge Health to get relief.

References

  1. Kumar, T., Kumar, S., Nezamuddin, Md., & Sharma, V. P. (2015). Efficacy of core muscle strengthening exercise in chronic low back pain patients. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 28(4), 699–707. doi:10.3233/bmr-140572

  2. Lindsey, T., & Dydyk, A. M. (2020). Spinal Osteoarthritis. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553190/

Table of Contents
What Is Cat Cow?What Muscles Does Cat Cow Work?Cat Cow BenefitsCat Cow: Exercises and ModificationsTo do cat cow: To make cat cow easier:To make cat cow harder:  How Hinge Health Can Help YouReferences