Screening For Spondylolisthesis and Spondylolysis

spondylolisthesis screen

A while back I was introduced to the Y-Balance Test by Spondyinfo.com co-creator Todd Bitzer.  Todd is a board certified physical therapist and owner of Modern Athlete Physical Therapy (if you are in the Chicago land area, make sure to look him up!).

He is a fantastic therapist and is always learning about his field and how he can implement new strategies into his therapy practice to further help his patients.

Todd was demonstrating to me  how the  Y-Balance Test helps to determine an individuals risk for injury.  It also helps to determine an individuals funtional symmentry. In other words, how well your right and left side work when compared to each other.

Those who have poor scores, or let’s say have a right side that is significantly stronger and more mobile when compared to the left (or vice versa), are placed into a higer risk category and provided exercises to help correct the problem.

You can learn more about the Y-Balance test and other helpful spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis screening methods by visiting our “spondy toolbox” page.

After taking and learning how to implement this test for future clients, it got me to thinking not only how important screening is, but how few people actually go through the process to assess a plan of attack for their spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.

These two screening tools are two of many that can be used to help you determine the root of your possible pain.  We all know the pain is produced by your spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis, but let’s go a step further, could there be a source for the actual spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis?

  • Could you have some tightness or weakness that is putting additonal stress on your spine which applies constant stress inducing inflammation and pain?
  • Do you have extremely tight hip flexors on your right side forcing you to compensate?
  • Did a past injury produce scar tissue in your shoulder that caused you to favor your left side more thus altering your movement mechanics and putting more stress on your spine?
  • Do you sit so much that you have developed certain restrictions and tightnesses?

These are all questions to ask yourself in your search for relief.  Getting a screen is something worth considering in your search for being pain free.  Randomly performing spondylolisthesis execises with no set order, length of time or progression is like throwing darts blind-folded in your search for pain relief.

Put it this way:

If you had a bad temperature that lasted a few days would you search the internet for what you could do to get better?  Or would you go to see a medical professional to figure out the root of the cause?

Perhaps you have the flu, or maybe pneumonia, but it would not be smart to let the temperature keep getting worse as you take guesses at how to fix it.

Your approach to finding a solution to your spondy should be the same way.

When searching for a way to get a screen look for a certified physical therapist or strength coach in your area.  The key is to find a screen that LOOKS AT YOUR ENTIRE BODY. Not just a screen for the area of your symptoms.

whole body

It is important to get a spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis screen that looks at your WHOLE body. Not just the site of the pain.

For example, as crazy as it sounds, I have seen instances where immobile ankles were the cause of back pain.

Screening the entire body might reveal an area that you would never have thought to be weak or tight.  If you are in physical therapy and have yet to get a screen, ask your professional if they could perform one.

You can also visit the website links provided at the beginning of the post and locate certified professionals in your area that could perform the Y Balance or Functional Movement Screen on you.

In your search, make sure the person giving you the screen is certified and has proper creditials. This will only ensure the safety and accuracy of the test.

Now you know the importance of going a step further than the examination you receive at the doctor’s office. Screening is an important part of the recovery process that should not be overlooked.

To learn more about helpful screens and to locate a certified professional in your area, visit our spondy toolbox page for more information.

We would love to hear what screens have or have not worked for your. Shoot us a comment below.

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Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)


  1. Ronald Lavine, DC
    4 years ago

    thanks for the reminder that the whole body gets into the act (whether someone has spondylolisthesis or not) and often “indirect” approaches, not only those directly targeting the low back, can be effective.


    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      No problem Ronald. Thanks for the comment.


  2. David Pattenden
    2 years ago

    Hi Justin,

    From your recommendation I had a full body movement assessment, this assessment found that I also had tight hips among other imbalances.

    My Physio gave me a full body program which I have had to tone down as many exercises were too painful.

    Having toned these down by both intensity and regularity I am starting to feel the benefits.

    What I would suggest is that as we know our own pains better than anyone, we should go at our pace and not the physio’s although a good physio should not push too hard.

    I an waiting to have pain relieving injections (Medial Branch Block) which I hope will help.

    Regards Dave P


    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Great post David!

      I agree completely and you are also correct on your statement regarding a good therapist should not push too hard. Their is a fine line between pushing just enough and pushing too much.

      All therapist are different and it often takes an extensive search to find someone who fits your situation just right.

      I am encouraged ou are seeing some improvements David….Keep pushing forward!


  3. Caryn
    2 years ago

    I have a Grade 1 (just shy of 2) spondy at L4/L5. Terrible, life altering leg pain for 3 months. Your website has been tremendous help. I saw 3 traditional PTs before I finally found a certified SFMA specialist (using the link on your site). In addition to having the perspective of thinking about all my movements (and identifying tight hip flexors as a big problem, seems to be a common theme for spondys) the sessions were one-on-one, which allowed excellent communication to adjust/adapt to my pain. And the hour session did not include icing or electronic stimulation, which I don’t think does much (and I can do at home).
    I now do the various exercises and stretches I was taught 5-6 days a week. I am much improved. I don’t know that I will ever have a day completely free of pain, but I am so grateful to be feeling better.


    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hi Caryn. I am so glad you have found some relief! You mention another great advantage of most SFMA practitioners, and that is the one-on-one experience. It really is great and something we did while I was working at a clinic. Thanks for the comment and continue improving!

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