My 5 Daily Spondylolisthesis Stretches/Movements – Part 3

In part 3 of my 6  part series titled “My 5 Daily Spondylolisthesis Stretches/Movements” we are going to cover the second stretch or movement that I have been performing on a daily basis over the last few weeks.

In case you missed it, I highly encourage you to read both parts 1 & 2 in order to fully understand not only why I am doing these stretches and movements, but why adding a daily warm-up routine to your life can be very beneficial.

You can read part 1 here

You can read part 2 here

For those of you reading for the first time, please keep in mind the ideal situation is for you to get a movement screen from a certified individual and determine what your PERSONAL weaknesses are and work with a rehab specialist to help you develop a few warm up movements designed specifically for you.

If you have yet to do this we highly recommend you read our disclaimer and ALWAYS speak to your doctor BEFORE starting any new exercise or stretching program.

Also, keep in mind this warm-up is not for all spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis patients. As you know by now spondy’s are unique and each situation is different.  If you have severe pain or discomfort present you will want to speak with your medical professionals due to the complexities and severity of your situation.

As always, make sure to give our disclaimer a read for more information.

Now let’s  get to my second daily stretch/movement…..


Stretch/Movement #2 = Toe Touch w/ Breathing and Hold


Why I do It

Touching the toes requires great timing, stability, mobility and flexibility in the mid section and lower body.

Many overlook this movement due to how easy it really looks. But just like with the deep squat, overtime we develop compensation patterns, injuries, knotted tissues, restricted muscles, etc. that make this movement harder and harder.

Keeping this movement clean and keeping the all important timing of the areas mentioned above working correctly is something that is important for keeping my spondy pain at bay.

I also like how this stretch helps to clear my mind and relieve stress. I really cannot explain why it does that, it just simply does.

How to do it

I created a video in the past explaining the toe touch as a simple movement test and how to set up and perform it. Please watch this quick video to get a better understanding of this movement.

I do make a few minor changes when performing this movement as part of my daily stretch routine as opposed to a test.

When at the bottom or finish position, I simply hold and try to relax.  I then take a deep, slow breath and exhale.  I put a ton of focus on how I breathe.  I mainly focus on my belly expanding with with each inhale and getting rid of all the air on my exhale.

Each time I exhale I lower a little closer to the ground. I do this for 5 breaths and relax.  At the bottom position I usually aim to hold for around 5 seconds.

That is it. Only one set for 5 breaths with 5 second holds.

I can usually get my knuckles to the floor by the end of the five breaths (if I am making a fist). I also pay attention to where I feel the resistance or tightness and I take a mental note and add some extra foam rolling to that area.

spondylolisthesis movement

My finish position after I perform a few holds

For example, I get a HUGE stretch and restriction in my calves on most days.

Regression = Toe Touch w/ Object Squeeze

If you have pain or are unable to perform the toe touch it may be a sign you have some movement dysfunction. If you do get pain or severe discomfort make sure to get looked at by a movement specialist or physician.

You may perceive this as having “tight” hamstrings or a “tight” low back, but in reality your body may be creating this tightness as stiffness as a way of protection or even anticipation (the brain may be anticipating pain).

And the body is doing this for a reason. It may be to simply help you get through your daily activities etc. Whatever the reason it is important to have a professional examine the exact reasons and help you develop a plan to improve it.

You can check out our Spondy Toolbox for information on movement screens and how to locate a certified professional in your area.

For those of you who are not experiencing pain and simply cannot touch your toes try the following regression.

This really is not a regression, but more of using an aid to help accomplish a few things.

What you will need is something soft that can be placed between your knees that allows you to squeeze your knees together. If you have a small pillow that will work perfectly or you can use any other object that does not cause you to adjust your position for that matter.

My personal favorite is a rolled up towel.

To start the movement place the object between your knees and place you feet together. Make sure you are standing tall.

spondylolisthesis movement exercise

Toe Touch Regression – Starting Position

Slowly lower until you hit your sticking point, then squeeze the object between your knees. You want to apply a decent amount of pressure on this object, but you do not want to compensate your movement.

Spondylolisthesis Stretch

Toe Touch Regression – Finish Position (Squeezing Towel)

Squeezing this object helps to accomplish a few things.

  • It forces several muscles in your midsection and hips to “fire” and help to keep that object tightly secured between your knees.
  • In turn, the muscles firing in the midsection and hips trick the hamstrings and posterior muscles to relax or calm down.

Before you even begin to lower, think of initiating the lowering by hinging your hips back or slightly sticking your butt back towards a wall behind you.

This will get you in the habit of lowering correctly and using the hip hinge to initiate the movement.

Again, do not worry if you cannot perform this movement due to discomfort, pain or fear. It is simply a possible sign that you are having some movement related issues that are not allowing you to perform this movement

If you cannot perform this stretch, look at it as an opportunity to find help and improve upon it. Doing so may improve how you not only move, but how you feel as well. The only way to do this is to find a professional that can assess you in person and help you develop a plan of attack.

To review, I do one toe touch with 5 breaths and 5 sec holds.

Make sure to check out Part #4 of this series as we will discuss the third stretch/movement that I do daily to help with my overall movement.

Until then, let me know your thoughts about this movement and this series in the comment section below. I would love to hear any comments or questions you have!

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Leave A Reply (15 comments so far)

  1. nanci
    4 years ago

    These stretches are great. I do them in the morning after I’ve warmed up a bit and am feeling comfortable moving about. A question I have would be, what stretches in particular, do you feel are best immediately getting out of bed? I need to stretch standing straight and bend over before I can move once I roll out. But I still have pain for at least a good 45 minutes. Wondering if there is a better stretch. Thank you so much for this web site.

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      I am glad you enjoy the stretches Nancy!

      I understand your pain with waking in the morning as it is something I suffered with every morning during the height of my flare ups. I would literally have to hold on to things to support my body weight as I stumbled through the house (and I was only in my mid 20’s at the time!!!). This question has come up quite often lately and it is something I am researching and working on as we speak. I plan on creating a post to help people with this problem. I will not only explain possible anatomical and scientific reasons for the pain and discomfort, but also how to help reduce it. I hope to post it in the next few weeks so please keep your eyes peeled. Sorry for not answering it now, but the blog post will be much more detailed and informative. Thanks again and I hope to speak with you soon!

  2. John
    4 years ago

    hi, This exercise is my favorite , 2 ears ago I doing pike stretch and I feeling comfortavle but when I discovered my spondy this exercise is very painful, when I toe touch i feel mechanical pain in my lower back, and i cant nothing humstring stretch back stretch and i am interesting how to cure it ? sorry my bad english

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      Hi John,

      Having pain with this movement/stretch is a good sign that you have some kind of movement related issues going on with your body. It could be a tightness, stability issue, core timing problem, strength issue or other things. I talked about this more in this video blog:
      The best way to locate this issue is to have a someone certified in a a full body movement screen perform a screen on you. Our preferred screening methods are the SFMA and FMS. You can learn more about these screening methods on our spondy toolbox page here:
      I hope this information helps John. Best of luck!

  3. Donna
    4 years ago

    These stretches have really helped! I added them to my regular workout routine. My issue is my pain is bad as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. I can’t find any relief. When I have a flare up it’s even worse! I’ll look for your post in the next few weeks regarding this as you stated below. For the past two days I’ve been having an awful flare-up. When this happens it’s very painful to walk and move around but I force myself and sometimes it actually makes it feel better. My question is, if I’m having pain and walking/moving is bothering me, could I be causing more damage by doing it? Other times I can’t wait to get off my feet and ice my back. When it’s this bad I find it too difficult to workout in the gym. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      Hi Donna. I understand your question completely as I too had severe pains in the mornings during my awful flare ups,but it really is hard to provide you with an answer that is 100% accurate for without knowing your situation (type of spondy, grade of spondy, injury history, other back conditions, movement patterns, and various other factors). Your doctor would be able to provide you with an answer that is more tailored for your exact situation. In general the pain is coming from inflammation of soft tissues surrounding the injured area and could be combined with nerve compression. The battle is 1.) finding what produces these flare ups and 2.) seeing if there is a correlation between your movement habits and this pain. Often times poor movement habits in combination with certain activities lead to this inflammation and horrible flare ups. When you perform certain activities that require certain movements that your body has trouble producing compensations take place which sometimes can lead to stress and strain on various tissues. Have you ever had any kind of full body movement screen by a professional to determine what your quality of movement is like as a whole?

  4. Rae
    4 years ago

    I can do This with no problem! In fact I do it several times per day. My quads however are tight tight!!!

  5. Cindi Garrett
    3 years ago

    I had no idea this was a stretch that was suppose to be done. I have grade 1 spondy. Please can you explain? I would love to do these, but try to keep my back as straight as I can. Thank you!

  6. Jad Wahab
    2 years ago

    I have pain in my lower back when I bend forwards like in this stretch, so I have been lying on my back and using a large towel or a band to pull my legs up one at a time and accomplish the same stretch as the one shown above. I guess since my back remains straight in the stretch I do, I experience no pain. However I was wondering since you said that everyone should be able to do the above stretch if the one I’m doing actually accomplishes the same thing. Is it enough for me to do the stretch I have been doing, or should I try to work on weaknesses that prohibit me from doing the above stretch without experiencing pain?

    By the way, thank you so much for this website, it has helped me learn a lot about my spondy (much more than I have learnt from my doctors/physiotherapists/chiropractors in the past 2 years).

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