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Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of my free time reading and studying about the human body and movement.
The more I learn about movement the more I realize how important of a role it plays in those with spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.
There are many runners out there that suffer from spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis and the more I learn about movement the more I start to understand why running causes so many with spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis trouble.
Over the years I have learned a ton from physical therapist and creator of the Functional Movement Screen, Gray Cook, and this week I watched one of his DVD’s titled “Key Functional Exercises You Should Know”.
In a quick nutshell and according to Gray Cook, a self limiting exercise is one that requires a coordination of attributes that is not often used together. Self limiting exercise also requires attention to detail to be performed correctly.
Without proper movement and timing these exercises are not possible to perform. If they are not performed correctly you simply cannot do them.
A perfect example of a self limiting exercise would be jumping rope. Without perfect posture, timing and coordination you would keep hitting the rope and not completing the jump.
Basically, there is no way to cheat this exercise.
On the other hand, going for an afternoon run is not a self limiting exercise.
You can slouch over, run on the outside of your feet, use smaller muscles for movements that are supposed to be handled by larger muscles and so forth. This is part of the reason you see so many people run so many different ways.
You can cheat running and most people do. In reality you have to be in shape to run and most people run to get in shape and this is where problems occur.
Now you might be wondering what this has to do with your spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis…….
The answer to this question is simple:
There is probably a large percentage of people who suffer from spondylolisthesis and spondylolyis who also have very poor movement.
The poor movement could stem from anywhere. It could come from improper hinging of the hips, overactive hamstrings, improper timing of the core, poor thoracic spine mobility, etc.
When movements occur poorly, areas above and below are greatly affected. Compensations occur and could eventually lead to pain, discomfort and overuse injuries.
Now, think about running and think about how many times your feet touch the ground with each run or jog…The answer could range from hundreds to thousands.
Now think about the movement and the muscles that are required to make your feet move each time. You use your quads, hips, glutes, core, and upper body to make this movement happen.
Basically you use everything!
If one area is not working correctly, compensations start and affect everything. Since running is not a self limiting exercise you can easily cheat it and recruit your stronger areas to handle the work. This leads to overuse, stress, and possibly pain……Perhaps spondy pain!
You do not have a world class running coach teaching you how to run and yelling at you each time your posture gets a little out of line. You keep pushing and getting more fatigued and the cycle continues.
The important thing to realize is the exact cause of your spondylolisthesis pain is a mystery UNTIL it is addressed by a professional. It could be a weakness or tightness that is leading to a movement issue or it could be something else.
To simply say THIS (insert any reason here) is why running hurts your spondylolisthesis, without a full body assessment, would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Everyone is created differently and everyone could have a different reason for pain.
To simply perform a stretch on your “sore” area or strengthen you core will NOT solve your pain or movement issue. It may provide some brief relief, but that pain will be right back during your next long run until your poor movement habits are corrected.
More than likely after the selected stretch does not cure your pain, you will go back to the internet and search for the next stretch or exercise and continue the guessing game of why the pain keeps coming back.
So what can you do?
Now that you hopefully understand the complex answer to the question why running affects your spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis, it is time to do something about it.
These full body screens will look at how your body moves as a whole and will help the certified professional develop a proper plan of recovery.
Once your movement issues are discovered, certain corrective exercises are prescribed to help you move the way you are intended too. Improving these movement issues may help to improve your areas of weakness that are leading to compensations and pain.
There are hundreds of different things that could be causing your spondy pain to increase, flare up, or hurt during each jog or run.
One exercise or stretch will more than likely not provide you with long term relief of comfort. It will more than likely take a collective effort of progressive exercises attacking specific weaknesses to accomplish the goal of moving and feeling better. The sooner this is realized the sooner you can start to move and feel better.
If you would like to learn more about how movement relates to your spondy and how to go about getting help, make sure to check out our Step-By-Step Spondy Improvement Path.
Hopefully this sheds some light on a very difficult question. The answer is complex and can change on an individual to individual basis.
This article may raise even more questions and we would be happy to answer them. Simply chime in below in the comments box or send us an email. We love all questions and feedback!