Exercise and stretching are two great treatment options for spondylolisthesis. However, performing the wrong exercise or stretch can be harmful and lead to greater pain and discomfort. It is important to understand that the purpose of exercise is to reduce spondylolisthesis related pain.
The Purpose of Exercise For Back Pain
The purpose of exercise and stretching for those who suffer from pain associated with spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis is to correct and strengthen areas of weakness, tightness, or overuse. For a majority of those who suffer from lower grade spondylolisthesis (grades 1 and 2) those weaknesses and tightness lie around the spine. The areas include, but are not limited to:
- Quads and hip flexor muscles
- Mid to upper back
- Ankles / calves
- Pelvic muscles
The previously mentioned areas should be targeted in the exercise and stretching program to help improve the chances of long-term relief.
Why Not Work The Back?
The reason the low back is not included in this list is due to the fact that those who suffer from spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis usually overuse the muscles and soft tissues of the low back with daily activities.
The back is often blamed for things that should be rewarded for. When playing sports, sitting at work, or exercising your muscles are working together to achieve proper movement. The hips, core, hamstrings, quads and most importantly glutes are working together like the gears of a finely tuned machine.
When one of these gears is tight, weak or not working on all cylinders the back sometimes steps up to assist. Not long after that the back gets tired, stressed and overworked. If a spondylolysis is present slippage could occur in the vertebrae causing inflammation, tightness and discomfort in or around the back.
A Common Mistake
A common mistake is to think the presence of back pain means the back is “weak”. More often than not, back pain is caused by overuse of the muscles or tissue around the spine due to the fact that they are picking up the slack for something else.
A big mistake is to rush to the gym and perform multiple back exercises designed to strengthen the back muscles. Exclusively working your back muscles is only going to make your back more painful and irritated.
Instead you should be focusing on strengthening and extending the support system of the back. Give the gears of your machine (the areas in bullet point above) the stretching and fine tuning they need to stay strong and work correctly. This will help you to increase your chances of avoiding back pain all together.
Instead of blaming the back, give it a thank you and some relief by focusing your workouts on the areas around it.