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Understanding Spondylolisthesis: The Role of Exercise

Posted on May 6th, 2024 by Andries Lodder

by Jana van Jaarsveld

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that involves instability of the spine characterized by the forward displacement of one vertebra over the vertebra beneath it. This displacement may put pressure on a nerve and can result in pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility, impacting the quality of life for those affected. While treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition, exercise has emerged as a crucial component in managing spondylolisthesis and improving overall spinal health.

Difference between spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis?

They are both a cause of lower back pain. However, Spondylolysis is a stress fracture or a crack in one of the vertebrae’s. Generally seen in younger athletes. Where as spondylolisthesis is where a vertebrae slips out of place. Spondylosis may cause Spondylolisthesis, when the stress fracture cause slipping

Before delving into the impact of exercise, it’s essential to understand the different types of spondylolistheses:

  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis is the most common form. It is a result of aging. Over time the discs lose water, and it becomes thin so it is easy for the discs to slip
  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis, is generally a result of spondylolysis and caused by a defect n the pars interarticular is, often seen in athletes who engage in repetitive hyperextension activities.
  • Congenital Spondylolisthesis is birth relate. The baby’s spine doesn’t form the way it should.
  • Traumatic Spondylolisthesis: Caused by acute fractures or traumas to the spine.

Impact of Exercise:

Exercise plays a vital role in managing spondylolisthesis by strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, and stabilizing the spine. Here’s how exercise can benefit individuals with spondylolisthesis:

1. Strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine, particularly the abdominals and back muscles, helps provide support and stability to the spine, reducing the strain on the affected vertebrae.

2. Stretching exercises target tight muscles and ligaments, relieving tension in the spine and improving range of motion. Focus on stretches that target the hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower back.

3. Engaging in activities such as swimming, walking, or cycling promotes cardiovascular health without placing excessive stress on the spine. These activities also help maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce the burden on the spine.

4. Incorporating exercises and techniques to improve posture can alleviate pressure on the spine and prevent further progression of spondylolisthesis. Emphasize proper alignment during exercises and daily activities.

5. Balance and Stability Training: Exercises that challenge balance and stability, can enhance proprioception and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

Exercise Consideration

While exercise can be beneficial in managing spondylolisthesis, it’s essential to approach it cautiously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, such as a Biokineticist. They will oversee the following crucial steps:

  1. Initial Consultation: Before commencing any exercise regimen, a thorough assessment of your strength and capabilities will be conducted. This evaluation helps in determining the most suitable exercises tailored to your specific condition and limitations.
  2. Gradual Progression: Begin with gentle exercises and incrementally increase intensity and duration over time. It’s important to steer clear of activities that may exacerbate pain or discomfort.
  3. Proper Technique: Emphasis should be placed on maintaining proper form and technique during exercises to minimize the risk of injury. Exercises involving excessive twisting, bending, or impacting the spine should be avoided.
  4. Listen to Your Body: If you experience heightened pain or discomfort during exercise, cease immediately and seek guidance from your healthcare provider.

In conclusion, exercise plays a crucial role in managing spondylolisthesis by strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, and promoting overall spinal health. By incorporating appropriate exercises into your routine and following recommended guidelines, you can effectively manage spondylolisthesis and enhance your quality of life. Please feel free to contact us via our Social media and Website.


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