What Is The Best Exercise For Spondylolisthesis?

best spondylolisthesis exercise

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One of the most common questions asked by those who suffer from spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis is “what is the best exercise to help my spondylolisthesis”?

I would love to be able to tell you that the (insert any exercise name here) is the best exercise for the treatment of spondylolisthesis, but the truth is THERE IS NO ONE GREAT EXERCISE!

As a matter of fact, you could ask 10 patients who have received proper therapy for their spondylolisthesis and you might get 10 different answers to what exercise helped them the most. I would be willing to bet that they would state that a combination of proper exercises and stretches was the key to their recovery.

In today’s world, where time is of the essence and results are expected in the shortest amount of time possible, people want to find that one magic cure/exercise that will fix them of their pain in record time.

But the reality is just the opposite. To feel better you have to fix what causes your pain. For most spondylolisthesis patients it takes a combination of proper exercises to help correct the cause of the pain.

For those that have spondy’s, what causes the pain could be a variety of different issues….

  • Poor nueromuscular control
  • Weak glutes
  • Poor movement patterns
  • Tight/immobile thoracic spine
  • Excessive hyperextension caused by numerous factors

To focus on ONE specific stretch without knowing what the problem is can lead to frustration, pain, and even more damage.

This is another great reason to get a screen to help discover the root of your pain and your ideal path to improvement. Once this is determined an exercise or exercise program can be created with a specific goal in mind.

For example……

If it is determined you have immobile or tight hips, a series of excercises designed to improve mobility of the hips and proper firing of the glutes could be your ticket to successful spondylolisthesis relief.

Spondylolisthesis Stretch

An example of a stretch that targets muscles of the quad/hip region.

If it is determined you have limited mobility in your thoracic spine, then perhaps some mobility work in combination with specific strengthening exercises may help reduce the stress placed on your spondylolisthesis.

spondylolisthesis mobility work

Foam roll movement designed to improve the mobility of the thoracic spine.

The main point of this post is that there is no ONE SINGLE EXERCISE that is the best for this condition.

Due to the several possible causes of your spondylolisthesis along with your genetics and physical makeup, the best exercise for you could be something completely different from your neighbor who suffers from the same spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.

This is why a spondylolisthesis program that consists of a proper stretching and strengthening of multiple areas along with a progressive approach to improving your movement as a whole offers the best chance for pain relief.

Don’t just look for that one magic stretch.

Instead, aim to fix  your issues for long-term improvement.  Get looked at by a certified professional and get on a specific program to improve your weaknesses so you can begin to feel better.

If you are not for sure where to start, make sure to grab our FREE Ebook. It is a great starting point and full of fantastic spondy information!

Let us know in the comment section below if there are any specific stretches, exercises or techniques that you use to improve how you feel. Your tips could very well help someone else out.

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Leave A Reply (6 comments so far)

  1. David
    5 years ago

    Hello, great information. Do you know if rowing machines a good form of exercise for spondylolysis?

    • Spondy
      5 years ago

      Hello David. The answer to your question is a nice complement to this article.

      The rowing machine is a nice form of exercise (I am assuming your are talking about the machine that you sit in and give a push with your legs in combination with a row). It is a great way to increase the heart rate without excessive pounding of joints, etc. At the same time the user receives benefits of the “rowing” movement.

      However those who have spondy’s could struggle with this machine depending on their weaknesses. I have seen individuals use this machine and every rep is accompanied with a huge hyperextension of the low back. Over time this places excessive stress on the low back and could eventually lead to additional pain, fractures and increased discomfort if proper technique and form are not used. Caution should always be placed on exercises where high reps are used. Once fatigue sets in for those who have movement issues they will find a way to compensate and perform the movement. And a majority of the time that involves the site of the issue.

      As stated in this article the answer to your question really depends on the individual and their weaknesses, movement patterns and tightnesses. The machine could be perfectly fine for some and could cause major pain for others. My advise would be to seek a professional (strength coach, certified trainer, therapist) who has knowledge with this machine and have them observe your technique. Their answer in combination with how you feel would be the determining factor in if this machine is safe for YOU.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Mercedes Bautista
    2 years ago

    thank you for all your info, Justin. I have been diagnosed with spondy grade 1 a few years ago and have gone on to do rehab. I have very tight glutes lately and quads and my PT keeps telling me we there is no “proper” quad stretches for spondy since it will require me to flex my back which is not good. I am a little concerned too since my lats are so tight because I am not allowed to overstretch as this will cause my spondy to gTet worse. I like to bike but can’t do it because my glutes and quads tighten up. I saw your video and was wondering if all the exercises (foam rolling) is applicable to all spondy patients. I have been told endlessly that I cannot do a foam roll because my back will arch. Are these all misconceptions? I do a lot of strenghtening but I now need stretching since my glutes, quads are all tightening up. I find it difficult not to do any stretches after a swim or walking especially since my hamstrings are so tight. I used to be able to touch my toe and was wondering if this is still a good stretch or will it be bad for the back. I am so confused with all the differing opinions of my PT and doctor. I would love to go back dancing but was told it will put a strain on the back. Mind you, mine is grade 1 spondy and they suspect the cause is fro.
    m degenerative osteoarthritis. Is there any difference to the rehab? Please advise,

    • SpondyInfo
      2 years ago

      Hi Mercedes. I answered your question in the email you also sent me. In regards to foam rolling being applicable to all spondy patients there are certain positions that are uncomfortable for some people. For example I have had people with knee replacements or hip replacement who are uncomfortable kneeling. There is always a way to make adjustments. Foam rolling – if done safely and correctly – is a great way to improve blood flow to areas in combination with all of the other benefits that have been reported over the years. I have foam rolled in one way or another about every client I have worked with over the years. I explain more in the email I sent you so keep your eyes peeled. Thanks!

  3. Denise Libien
    1 year ago

    I have had spondylolisthesis for 20+ years and just came across your website!! I am so thrilled to finally have more online information and a forum I can participate in!! I am currently experiencing a flare up due to a trip I took a few months ago. I didn’t make time to do stretching or strengthening and am paying for it now. My experience with physios has been so-so. I find that they keep giving me more exercises but don’t necessarily want to actually treat the issues to reduce pain.

    I am now wondering if acupuncture could be effective in spondy patients. Has there been any research on this topic?

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      Hi Denise. Unfortunately a majority of Spondy patients have the same experiences you have had with physio’s. This is not to say all physio’s are bad, it’s just that there are very few quality options out there compared to the total number of physio’s available. I have never read studies that point to acupuncture alone improving the spondy long-term, but that does not mean that acupuncture does not serve a purpose. I would be willing to guess (and this is just a guess on my end) that acupuncture in combination with finding out your movement weaknesses and improving them can be an effective approach.

      The thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different and what works for one, may not work for another. I encourage spondy patients to give various methods a try and note what helps and what does not. Here is an article that you may find helpful:https://spondyinfo.com/what-is-the-best-kind-of-spondylolisthesis-rehab/

      Best of luck and thanks for commenting. I hope you continue to enjoy the site!

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