Understanding The Spondylolisthesis Flare Ups (Part 2)

Spondylolisthesis Back Pain

As we discussed in Part 1 of Understanding the Spondylolisthesis Flare Ups, there are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to help manage your spondylolisthesis flare ups.

If you have yet to read part one, please do so. Otherwise this article will make little sense.

Once you have come up with a few answers to the questions we discussed in Part 1, it is time to talk about what you can do to avoid the next flare up.

I cannot express how helpful  it is to discuss all of these steps with your medical professional professional. They will be able to give you exact exercises along with answers to your questions. 

This will also help to initiate useful discussions with them in regards to your exact deficits.

As we look back at the questions and answers you provided from Part 1, let’s take a look at what can be done to help prevent the severity of futue flare ups.

1. What activity caused your flare up?

Once you have discovered what activity could be causing the flare up you might be best off limiting the activity. If the activity is an absolute love, try to reduce significantly the amount of time spent performing that activity.

As mentioned before my activity (or lack there of) that caused me pain was inactivity.

To combate this I tried hard to completely eliminate days of inactivity exceeding three. Amazingly my flare ups reduced significantly.

If your flare up is due to a sport or other activity and you want to get better, you need to cut back and reduce the stress to experience results. I know this is easier said than done, but trust me, your body will not heal if constant stress is applied.

Make sure to discuss with your doctor or therapist the recommended time off or break that is ideal for YOUR situation.  Everyone is different, but the one thing that remains the same is that everyone needs time to heal.

2. What physical weaknesses may have lead to the flare ups?

Step two is most useful with the help of a medical professional. They can help to determine your exact weaknesses and give you exercises designed to improve these areas of weakness.

In my case I, I had a few evaluations performed by collegues and determined I had a few weaknesses and imbalances. I procedded to add exercises designed to strengthen my hips and glutes along with some core stabilization exercises. Once I found what to focus on I felt stronger, healthier and experienced less pain.

If you are currently working with a therapist, strength coach, or certified trainer discuss with them this step and design a plan to attack your certain weaknesses.

You very well may have flexibility, strength, mobility, or stability issues in certain areas that are leading to flare ups during activities.

3. Was the flare up preventable? was the spondylolisthesis flare up preventable

If you decided your flare up was preventable (a certain sport, exercise or activity) a good idea would be to slowly work back into the activity with caution after you have worked on your weaknesses.  Pay close attention to your back pain and know when to quit if the pain begins to return.

Always speak with your doctor to get an idea on an exact return.

As mentioned in the last post, I discovered that the flare ups from one of my hobbies, golf, was preventable. After strengthening and imrpoving both stability and flexibility I no longer had pain with a sport I truely enjoyed.

Do not try and be a tough guy or gal and “power” through it. The old saying “no pain, no gain” does not apply to those with spondy’s. The goal is to return, but more importantly to be prepared and feeling great.

If a slight setback occurs, no problem. You are simply not ready yet. Be patient and improve your weaknesses.

If the flare up was not avoidable (accidents) simply chalk that up to bad luck and try not to put yourself in that position again.

This is most common in teenagers and young adults. I have seen a few cases of flare ups due to horseplay and accidents that were not necessary. Extreme sports and other dangerous activities have lead to a large amount of spondy flare ups.


Try this spondylolisthesis flare up control plan next time you get pain. It is a great start in your recovery process.

And remember, talk to your medical professional about this. They can give you exact answers and guidance that the internet cannot. Ask them for a screen to get the process going. This will help to determine your exact weaknesses and get you on the right path!

Next time you have a flare up, grab a piece of paper and a pen and jot down these three questions.  Then do your best to answer them.  It may take a few times of trial and error to figure out what your cause (s) are. You may just have more than one.

Over time you will begin to learn what to work on and what to avoid. Get stronger, more flexible and stable and you too can see some great results. Ultimately this will help reduce the amount and severity of your flare ups.

I would love to hear your comments below and best of luck!

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Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)

  1. Jeanne
    4 years ago

    I emailed you the other day one question are numerous flare-ups something the body can take over and over again ? this time pain has set into my hips – I have had it settle in other areas like down my leg and gotten rid of it with PT

    my spasms have moved now to both sides after I did PT and into my hips why this has changed I don’t know but the flexion distraction table was used any way I do always lean to the rt

    this yr I have had more spasms than ever I need to really get with doing exercises every day I guess… sure wish there was a warning before these hit

    most times they hit when I go to sit once it starts no going back …

    • Spondy
      4 years ago

      Hi Jeanne,

      Thanks for chiming in.

      I am a little confused by your question but I believe you are asking if numerous flare ups are something the human body can take over and over again. And if I understand the rest of your post it appears that by flare ups you are specifically referring to spasms. If that is indeed your question a general definition of a spasm is a spontaneous or abnormal contraction of a muscle. They are often caused by inflammation when a muscle is overworked, stressed or overstretched.

      After understanding this, the real question turns to why are your muscles getting overworked, stressed or overstretched and forced into a spasm?

      From my experience those with spondy’s often times suffer from some kind of movement issue(s). Now this is not the case for everyone, but for a large majority of grades 1 and 2 spondylolisthesis it is common. They might have tight muscles, weak muscles, poor quality of movement or a combination of all three. These issues lead to compensations with your movement. Perhaps you bend differently to get in and out of your car, or you sit down odd to avoid that painful feeling on your back. Whatever it may be, over time, the bodies movement has become compensated and affected.

      Over time these compensations can put stress and strain on certain muscles and may even cause them to spasm due to all of the work they are getting. Most of these muscles are not built or equipped to handle all of that stress and as a result they contract and or spasm.

      Sometimes they start on one area of the body, then the person compensates to avoid that spasm and in turn they favor the opposite side. Over time the opposite side receives so much stress it starts to spasm as well. Before one knows it they may be suffering from spasms in several areas.

      Again, this is just a general definition and example and varies from person to person and may not even be the case for you. In fact, there are many reasons or causes for spasms and having an experienced therapist who looks at your overall movement evaluate you would help to locate areas that need to be focused on to help decrease these occurrences. Make sure to discuss with your therapist these spasms and ask for some help. Ask them what is causing the spasms and what can you do about them? Make sure to explain to them your concerns and just how much they are affecting your daily life. Hopefully they will provide you with some quality help and information that will allow you to find some immediate and long-term relief.

      I hope this helps and if best of luck moving forward!

  2. Elena
    3 years ago

    I think what you are doing here is great. I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis about 2 years ago with a spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. It has definitely been a tough road up until this point because many exercises I have found to help one problem end up flaring up another. I am 25 and a female. I am in shape and stretch religiously and also do Pilates twice a week. My question is Iam still in general pain most days. I would not say it is debilitating but I have fewdays where I am in no pain. Is that pretty common or am I still doing something wrong? My pain is mostly in my hips and glutes and pelvic region and my calves constantly feel tight. I also have some low back pain but I understand that. I do sit most of the day for work and I also commute so I am unfortunately seated most hours of the day. Have you encountered those spots for pain because most people seem to have concentrated back pain and that is definitely not the case with me.

    • Spondy
      3 years ago

      Hi Elena. Thanks for finding the site. Your pain complaints sound very similar to many who suffer from a spondy. The pain varies from person to person and depends on many different factors (other possible back conditions such as slip discs etc., type of spondy, grade of spondy, activities and so on). That’s great that you are active and constantly stretching and staying on top of your physical condition. However, do you know if you are stretching the right areas? You may have movement issues or restrictions in certain areas of your body that may be contributing to some of these pains. Some of your stretching may be targeting the right areas and other areas may be going untouched. The best way to figure out for sure what areas you should focus on and to give yourself the greatest chances of improving is to get a movement screen by a certified professional. We use and often recommend the SFMA in combination with the FMS. You can learn more about them on our Spondy Toolbox page along with a link that helps you locate a professional in your area. I would recommend looking for a board certified physical therapist who can administer these simple tests to help you locate and correct any potential movement related issues that may be contributing to your pain complaints. You can learn more about screens by reading this blog post I wrote: https://spondyinfo.com/screening-for-spondylolisthesis-and-spondylolysis/

      I hope that helps and best of luck!

  3. Erroll Brady
    2 days ago

    “This will help to determine you exact weaknesses” should read, “This will help to determine your exact weaknesses”.

    • SpondyInfo
      1 day ago

      Thank you Erroll for the correction.

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