5 Spondy “Must Do’s” In The Road To Recovery

Finding a road to recovery for you spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis can be a very challenging obstacle.

Daily you are confronted with pain, confusion, frustration and perhaps a lack of hope.

One thing that I found so frustrating during my rehabilitation process was the lack of direction. There was no real guidance or path for me to follow.

My personal confusing journey consisted of meeting a doctor, visiting a physical therapist, getting no results in therapy, seeing another doctor, trying a chiropractor, seeing another doctor, trying therapy again, and so on.

Now that I have been able to control my spondy pain I wanted to share with you what I believe is a path that can help you and most importantly provide you with a sense of direction. 

This is the path I have personally taken and found to be most successful.

This path will not work for everyone due to all spondy’s being so different, but I encourage you to give it a read and a try. At the least it will allow you to experience several different recovery methods and help to eliminate processes along the way.

This path is best performed in order, with step number one being the most important to begin….

1. Get Properly Diagnosed

The key word in this step is PROPERLY.

I say this because there are so many people playing internet doctor out there. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard from someone that they thought they had a certain condition or injury due to what they read on the internet.

An internet doctor is someone who simply google’s their symptoms, reads a few articles and instantly assumes they have a spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis because they have the same symptoms listed on a website.


It only leads to fear and confusion.

You could have something totally different from a spondy. Go visit a doctor, get a proper and definite diagnosis and find out for sure if you have a spondy.

You cannot correct or improve on something that you do not really know what it is.

2. Select A Rehab Method/Professional

This is a step where many get confused, lost and frustrated. And to be honest, I do not blame them. I as well got lost on this step and spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours looking for help, only to come up empty handed and still in pain.

Confused with

One of the many reasons this step is so confusing is the many options available to the public. Due to the lack of in-depth scientific studies on spondy’s and what rehab works the best, a spondy patient could choose from one of many options:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Dry Needling
  • Chiropractor
  • Acupuncture
  • Personal Trainer
  • Massage Therapy
  • Active Release Therapy (ART)

I am not here to debate which is best because I truly believe each method serves a purpose. I personally found a combination of the above to be the most helpful.

Finding the type of rehab is only half the battle.

You also need to make sure the person administering the rehab is experienced and knowledgeable with your needs in their minds. Make sure to check for certifications, background experience working with spondy’s and what kind of care you will get (1 on 1 or group settings).

Not all rehab professionals are the same and there are many things to look for in the individuals administering your rehab.

You can learn more about this in our Step-By-Step Spondy Improvement Path.

3. Get A Movement Screen

We have mentioned before the importance of full body movement screens

We cannot stress the importance of searching for a movement screen professional in your area and having a screen performed on you.

We are advocates and personally use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). You can learn more about these tests and find a professional in your area by visiting our spondy toolbox page.



There are several more screens and certifications available that can help you and we are by no means ruling out others.

I think it is a very important step to evaluate your movement and improve it for several reasons.

One of the main reasons is to see if your poor movement may be leading to stress on your spondy.

It is very possible the poor movement you’re going through everyday could be leading to flare ups, pain and stress. The only way to find out is to test it and attack it.

4. Focus On Improving Your Weaknesses

Hopefully you followed step three and were able to go through a screen or testing protocol to assess your movement.

The certified individual who performed the test should have gone over the results with you and provided an expert opinion on ways to correct your movement issues.

Now you should focus on improving these weaknesses.

The rehab specialist hopefully helped you settle down your inflammation and now is working with you to improve upon these movement issues. It may include massage, dry needling, corrective exercises and mobility work, or a combination of methods.

Whatever the case you should work to improve how your body moves as a whole and pay attention to see if your improved movement is affecting how you feel.

5. Never Stop Working On Your Weaknesses

Throughout your rehab experience you should be in constant communication with your professional. You should get an understanding of what your weaknesses or movement issues are and what the best way to go about correcting them is.

Sooner or later you will complete rehab and be sent back to your daily life. 

One BIG mistake many spondy patients make is to stop working on what they improved. When this happens old movement issues return and the process begins all over.

To this day I still work on my weaknesses on a weekly basis. It no longer has to be every day, but I do set aside a few days a week (under 30 min per session) and work on my weaknesses. This is part of the reason I am able to stay feeling healthy and strong while avoiding flare ups.


Me working on one of my many weaknesses.

When rehab is over avoid future setbacks and keep working on your weaknesses. 

A well designed spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis home exercise program is a great way to go.

Most rehab professionals would be happy to sit down and discuss a plan for you to continue to work on your weaknesses from home. You can always check in with them from time to time and let them know how you are doing or simply ask them questions.

Hopefully these 5 simple steps give you a guided path to follow if you are frustrated, confused, or just plain lost in your attempt finding relief for your spondy.

Start with step one and get to work. You are ultimately the one in the driver’s seat on improving how you move and feel.

Have you attempted any of these steps before? If so, which ones have you tried?

I would love to hear about it. 

Comment below to let me know all about it.

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Leave A Reply (18 comments so far)

  1. prassanna parulekar
    2 years ago

    Please resume sending me mails.
    I stopped receiving them a month ago.
    Thanking u in anticipation.

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hi Prassanna. I am in the process of creating new content and you will be emailed with any new info. It has been a very busy year and it has slowed me down a bit on the site. Thanks for the interest!

  2. Debbie
    2 years ago

    I’m currently stuck at #2. I’ve been through the PT. I had a doctor (spine) that says surgery. Unwilling to work with me on this. I have Spondylolisthesis, grade 1. Surgery isn’t an option. I’ve said so. And now this doctor doesn’t want to work with me. It seems pretty lazy to me and not considering what’s best for me. So pretty stuck. I’m without a doctor and with insurance I’d need a doctors approval to go any further. Pretty discourage. I’d love to do the FMS. To see how my body is really moving as far as function and posture. Currently, too exhausted. Been through so much with no results with the medical end.

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hi Debbie. One thing to remember Debbie is that all doctors and PT is not the same. You could visit 2 different doctors and get totally different opinions on what you should do. You could also visit to PT’s and have totally different approaches to improvement. It is one of the many confusing things about this condition. Unfortunately, I have run into more doctors that provide little to no help compared to doctors that I thought helped me. You have to stay strong and keep positive. One you get some rest I would recommend looking into the SFMA and local therapist that provide this option. Give them a call, explain your situation and go from there. Stay in touch and best of luck.

  3. Debbie
    2 years ago

    Thanks Justin, yes, I will continue to stay strong and always positive. I’ve been through a few doctors. Been to several PT. Treat me like other spondy patients. I did do a back therapy that helped. She told me to join gym with similar machines. That has been helping. I’m looking into SFMA.

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      No problem Debbie.

  4. Georgeanna
    2 years ago

    I really appreciate your information. I am having a hard time with the site to help me find the movement assessment practitioners in the 81301 zip code. Could you please email them to me.
    Thank you so much.

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hello Georgeanna. Could you please email me your question in greater detail and I would be glad to help you. info@spondyinfo.com. Thanks!

  5. SteveL
    2 years ago

    I was just released from physical therapy last week. I went through eight weeks with a therapist certified in SFMA. I feel better but I also know that this is not an injury that suddenly just gets better. I wish it were. I’m working in the gym and at home 3X-5X per week. I do yoga once per week and strength training as well. My spondi is a grade 1. I’m a desk jockey as I own my own firm so I’m powering through spreadsheets all day but reminding myself to get up and move more often. As I enjoy working out, I don’t find it tedious lack motivation. In fact, my wife encourages me to take some more down time but that’s not really in my DNA. My recommendation: Go to someone certified in SFMA; Do they drills and exercises faithfully and with a cheerful countenance but also recognize that it’s a journey and it will take some time. I’m still in the early stages of mine but this website has been very helpful, particularly recommending an SFMA professional. That, alone, was worth a decent amount of out of pocket cost.

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Great post SteveL! Thanks so much for sharing and I could not agree with you anymore! These are great points and I hope others will learn from them.

  6. Maggie
    2 years ago

    This is the best and most helpful article thus far. Thanks!

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Thanks for the kind words Maggie! I am glad it helped!

  7. Steve
    2 years ago

    Great info. Thanks.
    I went to six doctors– different specialists, all at Kaiser. All had somewhat different advice. Weeded out best practices for me. Now use a personal trainer 2 times a week and try to walk a lot. Much, much better.

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Thanks for sharing Steve! It really is amazing how many doctors one can see with this condition and yet still get completely different opinions and advice.

  8. Azam
    11 months ago

    Great info. I was diagnosed through my MRI with Grade 1 anterolisthesis at L5-S1, Disc protrusion at L5 and severe arthritis in July 2016. Since then I have been going to PT and also FMS. The FMS reviewed my motions, actions and weaknesses and treated my every week (for only 5 minutes each time).
    Although I do not have the Sciatica attack that I had in July, I still have the dull pain in my left hip where I had the sciatica initially, Some days, I have real bad but on days when I do my hot tub and swimming, it feels a lot better. I told my FMS doctor and my Therapist and they keep saying that it is muscle memory and it takes time for it to go away completely.

    I have started playing badminton, doing a little weights (not as much as I would like to) and my elliptical as well as running on a rebounder. I think I am going little aggressive on my activities especially after Badminton and running on the rebounder. My question is should I continue with my activities or discontinue all activities (except swimming and PT exercises)?

    • SpondyInfo
      11 months ago

      Hello Azam. Thanks for the information and story. To be honest, I cannot tell you whether or not to stop or continue with activities. That is something a doctor or PT should provide you information on mainly because they have all of the necessary information they need to make an accurate diagnosis/recommendation. For example, things such as grade of spondy, type of spondy, injury history, existing injuries, personal movement patterns and weaknesses must all be taken into consideration.

      What I can tell you is what I have experienced and gone through. I personally found listening to my body as the best indicator on what I should do/avoid. I had several doctors tell me to avoid lifting weights, sprinting and playing golf. I now do each one pretty much on a regular basis without problems. I listen to how my body feels and take it day by day. If I feel tight, unstable or just “not right”. I scale back or take the day off. On the other hand I have had doctors tell me I should do whatever I feel comfortable doing as my specific situation provides no substantial immediate risks to spine damage. I found this so confusing. How can two doctors provide such drastic pieces of advice? Ultimately, what I think it comes down to is that each person is different and that is why it is important to gather as much information as you can from your doctors and make an informed decision. But ALWAYS listen to your body, it is the ultimate and most accurate source of information.

  9. Sue Zumbro
    10 months ago

    Thanks much. I agree with all you said about many options but not knowing which is best. I have a proper diagnosis (spondylothesis degree 2). I have tried physical therapy with very little success. I’m doing better now because I’ve lost 45 lbs but will need to re-open my search soon. I have been referred to a PT by a chiropractor friend who knows my diagnosis. So hopefully I can get the FMS or SFMS and really focus. Thanks for you website and help.

    • SpondyInfo
      10 months ago

      Hi Sue. Congrats on the weight loss! That is awesome. Stay active, positive and confident that you can improve. And remember, it is hard to find a therapist that is knowledgeable of this condition. So don’t give up after one or two failed attempts. Hopefully your chiro has some great contacts and you are on your road to improvement. Best of luck and stay in contact with your journey!

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