Welcome to the Spondy Toolbox!

The Spondy toolbox is a collection of resources, links, products and information that can be helpful for patients with spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis. Please use the blue links to learn more about each tool.

Helpful Therapy & Recovery Resources

If you have spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis and are trying to find a therapist or trainer to help you, the following certifications are good to look for (we are not partnered with these in any way, but they are certfications we personally value).


Functional Movement Screen

A great screening method that is used to determine movement issues or faulty movement patterns. Certified individuals are qualified to perform the test on you and provide helpful exercises to improve movement. In your search for finding a therapist, coach or trainer, visit the blue link above to find an expert who is certified in your area.


Selective Functional Movement Assessment

A movement assessment that helps to assess fundamental patterns in those with musculoskelatal pain. We HIGHLY recommend finding a certified therapist who has this certfication to perform the test. This certification is similar to the FMS, but more detailed. Make sure to ask those certified in the FMS if they hold an SFMA certification as well.


Kinetacore Physical Therapy Education & Dry Needling

Dry Needling is a type of therapeutic treatment that helps to locate and target “trigger points”. This technique can be a very effective form of treatment for both acute and chronic pain. Dry Needling helps to find and eliminate neuromuscular dysfunctions that can lead to pain. Visit the link above to find a certified professional near you.

Y Balance Test

Y-Balance Test

The Y-Balance test by Move2Perform is another procedure that tests a person’s risk for injury and also looks at functional symmetry. This testing method is ideal for patients who participate in athletic events or are everyday active individuals (running, working out, yoga, etc.) This testing method has been researched extensively and provides very positive accuracy results. To learn more, visit the link above, where you can also locate a certified individual in your area.

ART Logo

Active Release Therapy (A.R.T. Massage)

A.R.T. is a type of massage focusing on overused areas of muscle, tissues, and ligaments. The soft tissue and muscles surrounding the low back, hips, IT bands, and glutes are just a few of the areas that can become overworked and inflamed.

An A.R.T. specialist can work out these knots and inflamed tissues. I have experimented with different forms of A.R.T. The results can be amazing. Not only can this technique help to eliminate and reduce scar tissue, it can also assist in improving range of motion and flexibility.

Helpful Exercise Equipment & Products

The following are exercise products and equipment that I use or have used in the past. “Perform Better” is one of the leaders and most respected vendors in the fitness industry.

Elite Foam Rollers

These are the same foam rollers we use in our videos and at the clinic. If you have yet to try the benefits of a foam roller, you are missing out. They are made of dense foam and designed to last. Be cautious of cheaper models as they do not last long. I prefer the 3′ long and 6″ round for easy storage.

Perform Better Gray Cook Bands

Gray Cook Band

In my opinion one of the best home exercise bands on the market. It allows you to perform several different exercises and easily/safely attaches to the door. I would purchase the lighter version first and progress from there.

Posture Ball (for foam rolling)

These balls are another form of a foam roll. They work great for the hard to reach areas that are often affected by overuse and excessive sitting (hips).

Spondy Books & Educational Information

The following are programs and educational information that we personally created or to help individuals diagnosed with grades 1 and 2 spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.

3 Things Every Spondy Patient Needs To Know eBook (free download)

 Our free eBook for patients wanting to learn more about their spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.

Spondyinfo.com’s Justin Adkins and Todd Bitzer, PT, OCS created this guide to help patients better understand their condition and how to go about improving how they move and feel.


The Step-By-Step Spondy Improvement Path

The Step-By-Step Spondy Improvement Path gives readers exclusive access to the members only area of our website. In this area you will have access to over 15 articles that are organized into three important paths. Each path contains steps geared toward helping you better understand your spondy along with what to do to put yourself in a position to move and feel better.

This packet includes helpful information on how to get properly diagnosed, what to look for when it comes to seeking rehabilitation and therapy, and how to continue your improvement post-therapy for long-term success.


SpondyInfo.com’s Home Exercise Program

We are excited to introduce our latest helpful tool: SpondyInfo.com’s Home Exercise Program!

This home exercise program will not only teach you all about your spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis, but it will also provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to complete an 11-week home exercise program specifically designed to improve mobility, stability, strength and flexibility to help you not only move and feel better.

This is a comprehensive home exercise program full of colored photos to guide you from beginning to end of each exercise, stretch and movement. If you would like to work on spondy-specific weaknesses, the SpondyInfo.com Home Exercise Program may be exactly what you have been looking for.

Please let us know if you have any products or programs that have helped you in your journey with spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis. Share your stories in the comment section below.


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Leave A Reply (34 comments so far)

  1. Terry Koczorowski
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the helpful tools, been diagnosed with a spondylolisthesis L4-5; also have a synovial cyst at that level—I don’t want to have to undergo open back surgery—-any suggestions to avoid it by using these tools?

    • Spondy
      5 years ago

      Thanks for commenting Terry.

      It sounds like you have taken the big first step of getting a proper diagnosis and I completely understand your postion on wanting to avoid surgery. Hopefully with a proper treatment program and improving how your body moves your chances will improve greatly.

      As far as the tools go, the first and in my opinion, most important step to take is to get a proper screen. I would push you towards the FMS or SFMA. These screens really opened up my eyes to how the body works and I really believe it played an important role in helping me improve how I felt.

      Use the links we provide to find someone in your area that is FMS certified (the best route is to look for Physical Therapists who have this certification). Then give them a call, explain your situation and ask them about the screen and how you can go about getting one. This will give you some baseline, objective results and also provide the therapist with some feedback to help you to the next step.

      The next step might be another screen (SFMA) or perhaps some therapy or home exercise program that addresses your weaknesses according to the results of the screen. We have had great success by screening, locating weaknesses or poor movement, addressing them and improving them. Hopefully this will get you on the right track as well. Try it out and keep in touch if you have any questions or if you need further help.

  2. Ash88
    4 years ago

    I was diagnosed this past summer with a grade 1 spondy at the L5-S1 level. Have been seeing a physical therapist for the past few months. I had a flare up that was the worst of the summer when i dropped to the hard ground from a dock. 2 weeks after that incident the pain was so much better. But the numbness and tingling will not give up. I have done all the exercises/routines, i changed my sleeping habit no longer sleep on my abdomen and started slumping instead of extending my back. SO why does this numbness and tingling continue to flare up?!? I have good days and then i have days where i cant shake it. There is no rhyme or reason to it sometimes the pelvic tilts help and other times they are the source of the flare up? I was just wondering if you have heard of anything like this, my pain is literally 0/1 on the 0-10 scale and is only a 1 after a long day of work. Any input would be great and ill pass it on to my physical therapist he just thinks i need to give it more time and start exercising which is great but do i exercise through the numbness and tingling, that seems wrong to me?

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      Yes, frustrating stuff, but it’s not uncommon to have numbness and tingling persist. In my experience, it means there’s still compensatory movement patterns that haven’t been resolved. But first, cover the basics by discussing the possibilities of nerve compression with your physician or therapist. Numbness and tingling are typically associated with compression of a nerve. This would be a mechanical issue, meaning that postures or activities will consistently worsen or relieve the symptoms. I would suggest speaking with your therapist or physician to determine what evidence you show for this (previous MRI or other testing can show nerve impingement, and clinical orthopedic testing should help clarify the matter if MRI is clear). Numbness and tingling can also come from less obvious sources, such as blood flow restrictions or nerve gliding restrictions due to compensatory movement patterns. These are mechanical issues, too (very fixable). You have the right to ask questions until you understand the issue. And you have the right to ask questions to ensure the clinician treating you understands the issue, too!

      There is nothing wrong with a clinician saying “I’m not sure” and continuing to treat you for deficits they can help you correct, so long as you are referred out to a suggested clinician to handle your “unsolved mystery.” The problem, in my opinion, is when clinician’s say “give it time” when they really mean “I have no idea”. That’s not fair to you. In the blog posts on this website, we refer frequently to the importance of full body assessment. I prefer to use the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, which would be appropriate for your case. You may also notice we suggest the Functional Movement Screen, but this would be more appropriate for you when pain, numbness, and tingling have been resolved (see our spondy toolbox page on this website for more info). Since you are not in acute pain, it is time to make sure therapy focuses on finding the faulty patterns that helped create your situation. This means you have to look beyond the lumbar region and hips. Your past injury history may help lead you. And I may be misinterpreting what you mean by “started slumping instead of extending my back”, but I want to make sure you aren’t scaring yourself into not moving (or trading one compensation for another). Excessive extension where the lumbar spine meets your pelvis is definitely not desirable — whether or not a spondy has developed. But slumping isn’t the ticket either. For example, it is expected — even with a spondy — for your body to be capable of a backward bend with different regions contributing to the motion. Adequate motion through the ankles, hips, and upper back (thoracic spine) are critical. Excessive extension of the lumbar spine is typically seen when these other regions become stiff. So it may be a good idea to investigate what is happening at the ankles, hips, and upper back. Hopefully this helps with your question, if not you can always get in touch with us. Best of luck and please keep us updated on your progress!

  3. Mercedes
    3 years ago

    Hi Justin,

    Found your site by accident and am so fortunate to have done so. Just like you, have seen therapists, active rehab specialists, doctors and I am still not sure who to seek help from. Diagnosed with spondy 1 last June. Seen a neurologist and says it is purely mechanical caused by degenerative osteoarthritis. I seem not to be able to shake off the tingling on my left pinkie toe and no one knows.
    I really want to go back swimming, dancing but am hesitant because of varying opinions.
    Do you think you can show or tell me what are the safe stretches for glutes (spasm), hamstring etc. I am concerned about how to bend to pick up things. One says one thing, the other says another and I am utterly confused.
    I would like to continue doing things, walk, swim, treadmill, but at this point, because my paraspinals are so tight, don’t know if I should stretch or not. I am always worried if I stretch, my spondy will get worse. Would appreciate any advice. thanks.

    • Spondy
      3 years ago

      Hi Mercedes,

      I am glad you have enjoyed the site so far and I hope it continues to bring you useful information. Your story sounds like so many others that are shared on this site and I hope you can learn more about your body, your situation, and your specific condition and eventually get back to the activities you love. It is hard for me to answer your specific question on what stretches are safe for you due to the fact that I cannot physically see, evaluate or watch you move, bend or stretch. As you will learn from our website and Free Ebook, each person with this condition is so different. Different variables such as your grade of spondy, type of spondy, specific movement weaknesses or assymetries, injury history and other back conditions (bulging disc, stenosis, etc) make each person a unique and special case. Each person therefore has individual things they should work on to thus improve how they move and feel. One question you need to ask yourself and perhaps seek professional rehab help with is “why are your paraspinals so tight”? Are you compensating throughout the day to help with a specific movement? Are you sitting and leaning forward all day causing them to overreact during activities? There are many possible reasons why they are tight, but just stretching them alone will likely only provide a brief amount of relief before you go back to the activity that is causing them to be tight. So you need to address the REASON they are tight, not just the fact they are tight. We are big believers in the SFMA and FMS testing protocols to help determine what your specific weaknesses are. You can learn more about them on this page (spondy toolbox page). Or, you can send me a private email and info@spondyinfo.com and I may know someone in your area that I can point you too for more specific help. I hope this helps and best of luck getting back to what you love!

  4. Andy
    3 years ago

    I have it on good authority that you cannot ‘hurt’ a spondy!! Providing you have the mobility and have researched relevant exercise programs, then ideally you need to try putting tougher a program. I would be interested to hear if and when you get a flare up what would be the typical symptons?. I have a grade 1 stable spondy at L5 and has been pretty much pain free, the other day I could not stand straight for an hour and it hurt like hell, deep inside my lower back front hinge area!! Does that sound familiar? Trouble is I have stenosis at this level also so it makes my back tight also. Do you weight train? I know that many spondys continue to train heavy in the gyms over there. What other forms of exercise do you fit into your daily schedule please Justin.

    • SpondyInfo
      3 years ago

      Hi Andy. I have not had a severe flare up in sometime due to what I have learned about my body and my spondy. But when I did get them, I got horrible pains in my hips and low back (always on one side only). I would also get severe nerve pain going up and down my leg. The pain would be so excruciating that I often needed help out of bed in the mornings. I also would have a hard time walking or simply getting around.

      Your pain may be a flare up or it may be the signs of another condition. Such as a bulging disc or stenosis. Judging from symptoms alone is very difficult. Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to seek professional medical attention which uses different testing protocols to determine the cause of the pain (MRI’s, X-Rays, Etc.).

      I do weight train. I lift weights on a weekly basis, without them I notice I had flare ups more often. I vary my weightlifting routine to include a multitude of exercises and movements. I usually spend 20-30 minutes a session when I do workout. I try to stay moving around as much as possible during the day and avoid long periods of sitting in combination with some kind of exercise. This may include 20-30 minutes of stretching, mobility work, weight training (various movements with weights or body weights) and sprinting. I tend to do what I feel like that day. I never force myself to do something. I want it to be fun and enjoyable. I hope that helps Andy and best of luck.

  5. Mercedes
    3 years ago

    Hi Justin,
    I just want clarification on how to use the foam ball without hurting my spine. How do you roll it on your lower back, shoulders and pfiriformis. Do you have a video for that?

    I was told that the spine should always be straight when rolling but I sometimes I have to twist my body to the other side especially when I have to roll on my glutes.

    • SpondyInfo
      3 years ago

      Hi Mercedes. A brief tip I always provided when it comes to foam rolling and the spine was to never roll directly ON the spine. You can roll around it by getting creative and using gravity as your friend (such as placing a lacrosse ball between you and the wall and rolling up and down to reach the hard to reach areas). I explain this more here: https://spondyinfo.com/spondylolisthesis-recovery-tip-foam-roll-with-a-lacrosse-ball/

      As far as the piriformis and hips go watch this video for more info. https://spondyinfo.com/spondylolisthesis-stretching-foam-roll-glute-hip-rotators-video/

      I have never heard that the spine has to be straight when rolling. The spine is always bending and moving throughout the day and it would be very difficult to keep it straight without some kind of hard brace that limits all movement. When coaching I always focused on technique and avoiding direct contact with the spine. The videos above should help you with that. Thanks!

  6. Mary
    3 years ago

    hi Justin
    I want to talk to you, I’ve gone with chiropractic and yoga for more than six months, and now my legs go numb in less time than before, this really worries me because I can I fall at any time, I wonder if any of your followers find an alternative to improve this.
    greetings and thanks for staying with us.

    • SpondyInfo
      3 years ago

      Hi Mary. I am sorry to hear your story. Feel free to email me at info@spondyinfo.com with any questions. Thanks!

  7. Ed
    2 years ago

    Hello. I was wondering if you had any information on the use of K-tape and Spondy?

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Great question Ed. At this time I do not have any information, but as more research is released I will make sure to post anything I feel is helpful. Thanks!

  8. Michelle
    2 years ago

    Hello Spondy

    I am enjoying to read this and get information. I can’t belevie that you have spondy since you were teenage that’s correct? I read online said that Most age 45 to 70 get spondy. Diagnosed with spondy 1 last Year (Oct 2014). I was upset that I can’t sleep with my stomach anymore because I prefer that I sleep with my stomach but really kill my low spine back, I was shock, I was not able to walk. I started stretch my body, I noticed that I feel better and I am able to walk again. I tried to look for FMS/SFMA at Alexandria, Virginia but they don’t have it. I am disappointment but Which I should see? I ask u a dumb question. Is it okay about walking about 2 miles for Spondy? Let me know. Thanks

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hi Michelle. You are correct, I have had my spondy since I was a teenager. Every year I feel I learn more about my body and my spondy and I continue to improve. I hope the information on this blog will help you do the same. As far as walking goes I cannot tell you if it is safe for you in your specific situation. Everyone is different when it comes to spondy’s and everyone should be treated as an individual. Things such as your spondy grade, past injury history, movement mechanics and your bodies strengths and weaknesses all play a role and determine what is and is not safe for you. For me personally, I have improved upon my weaknesses and now walk 2 miles multiple times a week with no issues. I find it very helpful in my outgoing battle with having a spondy. But again, this is not to say it is safe for you. That should be determined by a medical professional. Spondyinfo.com Co-Creator Todd Bitzer was able to come up with two contacts in your area that are SFMA certified and may be of help to you:

      Here are the two that he found:

      1. Ryan Shumate — Solutions Physical Therapy — 703-299-3111

      2. Marybeth Thompson — Inova Hospital Outpatient Physical Therapy — 703-504-3538

      I would recommend giving them a call, discussing your situation and going from there. They will be able to accurately answer questions such as the one you answered above. Best of luck and please let us know how things go!

  9. Ashton
    1 year ago

    Hello Justin,

    I have been diagnosed with a stage 2 spondylolisthesis in L5/S1 region with pain radiating to my right foot.

    Doctors suggest a spinal fusion surgery cause they say my spine in unstable.

    I really don’t want to undergo a surgery.

    Can spondylolisthesis be reversed and if yes, to what extent?
    Is there a permanent solution to Spondylolisthesis without somewhere down the road having to consider a surgery?

    Basically I have 2 doubts in my mind:
    1) How will the vertebrae go back to its original place
    2) Even if it does get back in place, what will hold it in place, considering the pars interarticularis has been broken.

    Please help me, I am doubtful and fearful about this problem.

    Thank You,

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      Hi Aston. I understand being hesitant, fearful and confused when the word surgery is thrown around. It can be very scary. Spondylolisthesis cannot be fully reversed through non-surgical methods (not that I know of anyway). Surgery is another story as doctors have various ways of improving the injured area. There are different methods of surgery so make sure to discuss what exactly the doctor will do with you and your case. I always recommend people to talk or meet with multiple doctors when surgery is presented. Some doctors are very pro surgery while others are more conservative. The other thing I recommend is to make sure you exhaust all options before surgery is decided on. This includes having your movement addressed and trying non-surgical methods of improvement first. I explain this more here:

      I hope this helps, if you have any further questions or comments, just let me know!

  10. John Buch
    11 months ago

    First important question for the PT: I have been diagnosed with a grade 1 spongy after 20 years of lumbar pain and an injury to the L5/S1 area annular fibrosis ligament at that time. I have used prolotherapy over the years to tighten injured ligaments in several areas of my body with good success. I am going to probably use prolo again to tighten the ligaments that have become lax and allowed my vertebra to move forward. my question is this: since the ligament might be under tension right now due to the movement of the L5/S1 vertebra, would TRACTION along with the prolo be a good idea? i think it would to create some kind of movement of the vertebra while we are also trying to strengthen it. it is like a boat tied to a dock….how do you strengthen it while it is under tension? I think that is where the traction may help…..create a vacuum in the disc area which may heighten it and allow the ligament (rope) to relax and let prolo do its work then. thanks for your time and reply John Buch

    • SpondyInfo
      11 months ago

      Use of traction is probably one of the most polarizing treatment tools when it comes to the spine — some professionals love it, many more despise it.

      Here’s my two cents…There is very little support in research to support that traction to the lumbar spine creates a change to pressure within the disc in living/breathing people. There’s just too much force required to make that change. Those in favor of traction (that I’ve seen) have supported their claim by citing research that was performed on animal or human cadavers, or dissected spines (the spine removed from the cadaver). Not to sound insensitive, but applying forces to non-living tissue is much different than to living tissue. The living body has the capability (and likelihood) of protecting and guarding with muscles as soon as their nervous system senses the application of force.

      But that doesn’t mean that traction for arthritis or herniated discs doesn’t temporarily relieve pain. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that says it’s helpful…but just as much (if not more) that says it’s not helpful.

      The biggest issue is wanting to do traction on a spine with a spondy. I would warn against it. The spondy segment lacks normal passive stability. The reward of traction does not outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

      And treatments like traction come back to a larger discussion…What is a band-aid and what is really creating long-term change?

      In my opinion, traction is nothing more than a band-aid providing momentary relief to a “stable” spine. A faulty movement system is the real issue in (nearly) every spondy. Traction won’t fix the movement system.

      My suggestion for your best 1-2 punch to aid the prolotherapy is to find a therapist who specializes in either Postural Restoration (postural restoration.com/find-provider) or Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) (functionalmovement.com/experts). Those aren’t the only two certifications by any means, but their methods are quite powerful in the hands of a skilled practitioner when it comes to altering faulty movement patterns.

      I hope this helps!