Lumbar Spondylolisthesis exercises to avoid?

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Exercise is an important element in the effective treatment of lower back injuries. However, not all exercises are safe and some may even further damage your spine.

For those with spondylolisthesis, knowing which will help to strengthen your back and which will further displace it can mean the difference between a functioning and non-functioning spine.

Spondylolisthesis results when a vertebra has become displaced or has slipped forward due to deterioration. This can potentially lead to painful pressure on the spinal-column nerves from vertebra. Someone experiencing this condition can treat it effectively with spondylolisthesis physiotherapy and also by keeping the below information in mind:

Lumbar Spondylolisthesis exercises to avoid?

  1. Avoid exercises that put excessive strain on the lower back, such as heavy weight lifting or full sit-ups.
  2. Avoid exercises that cause pain or discomfort. If an exercise is causing pain, stop the exercise immediately and consult with a medical professional.
  3. Avoid exercises that involve excessive twisting or bending of the spine.
  4. Avoid exercises that involve sudden or jerky movements.

Working out with spondylolisthesis?

Performing the below exercises to your comfort level will ensure your muscles stay strong, ultimately improving the condition of your spondylolisthesis. However, you should first speak with your physiotherapist first to ensure these will work with your needs.

Pelvic tilts

Lie on your back, bend you knees and keep your feet flat. Pull your belly button inwards toward your spine, pushing your lower back on the floor and keeping it straight. Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat 5 to 10 times, depending on your comfort level.

Dead bug

Follow the similar setup procedure as for a pelvic tilt but keep your arms at your sides. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift one leg a few inches off the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds then release. Repeat on the other leg. Then lift one arm over your head, hold again for 5 seconds and lower. Do 5 repetitions of this exercise on both legs and arms.

Gluteal stretch

Lie on your back and bend both knees. Put your right ankle over your left knee and hold onto your left thigh. Wrap your arms around your thigh and pull it toward your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your comfort level. 3 repetitions of this stretch will do the trick.

Side Plank

Lie on your side, levelling out your legs, hips and shoulders. Use your forearm to prop yourself up, ensuring your elbow is directly below your shoulder. Balancing your weight on your forearm, lift yourself up off the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds before carefully lowering. Repeat this plank on the other side.

Quadruped arm and leg raise

While down on your hands and knees, pull your belly button inward and tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise one arm and the opposite leg away from your body. Hold for 15 seconds, slowly lower your arm and leg and then change sides. Repeat 10 times.

Double knee to chest

Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominals and push your lower back toward the floor. Pull your knees to your chest and hold for 5 seconds. You can repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times.

Exercises to avoid

While it’s important to stay active, some exercises will only further damage your spinal cord and the muscles surrounding it. To ensure you don’t worsen the state of your spine, avoid the follow exercises:

Certain sports

Sports that strain your back significantly should be avoided as they can lead to further disc slippage and possibly lower the lumbar vertebrae. In fact, those who were not born with spondylolisthesis can often become subject to it due to traumatic wear and tear over time from sports such as wrestling and gymnastics. You should also avoid track and field as well as football, as harsh contact sports such as this can dramatically worsen the condition.

Twisting the lower back

In general, you should avoid activities that force you to twist your lower back, as this will further aggravate your condition. For example, sledding, snowmobiling or trampolining should be avoided.

Certain core exercises

While some core muscle exercises could prove to be beneficial, others will further strain your back, such as certain types of sit-ups. If you attend Pilates, avoid an exercise called “swimming,” in which you’ll lie on your stomach and lift you legs. As well, the “hurdler’s stretch” could further injure your back. This exercise requires you to extend one leg and tuck the other behind you while you lean forward.


Lifting heavy weights will only cause further strain to your entire back. At the very least, it is suggested that you change from heavier to lighter weights and take part in more repetitive lifting. A weightlifting machine may also be an option for you if you’re not ready to give up weights, however it is recommended you speak to your physiotherapist first.

As with any spinal condition, moderation is key. Speak first with an experienced professional about the exercises that are right for you and about physiotherapy for spondylolisthesis. Working together with a specialist will ensure a safe and effective treatment.

By |August 15th, 2016|Spondylolisthesis|Comments Off on Lumbar Spondylolisthesis exercises to avoid?

About the Author:

Anthony Grande has been a Registered Physiotherapist since 1996. His desire to help people recover from their injuries pushed him to provide better care and get involved in professional and government organizations, where he gained the opportunity to be part of roundtables with Ministers and their staff. He specializes in medical acupuncture, sports injury recovery, and stroke and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Anthony devotes his personal time to his family, animal welfare, and social entrepreneurship.