Spondylolisthesis Exercises & Stretches for Back Pain – Ask Doctor Jo

Spondylolisthesis Exercises & Stretches for Back Pain – Ask Doctor Jo

Hey everybody, it’s Dr. Jo! I got an email
from somebody asking how to do some stretches and strengthening exercises for spondylolisthesis.
What?? That is a pretty big scary word, but basically what it is, is when the spine slips
slightly forward, and it does sound scary, and it can be scary, but you can strengthen
your core around the spine to help protect it so it doesn’t make it any worse. So let’s
get started. So the first exercise we’re gonna do is lying down, propping your knees up.
This is going to be a simple pelvic tilt. So basically your taking your pelvis and pushing
it down into the ground. So you want to relax your back. Relax your head, so your not picking
your head up and stressing out your neck muscles, and you are going to imagine that your pushing
your belly button down to the ground. So your back ends up being flat on the ground, so
that arch that is usually there when you are just lying there, push it and flatten it out.
So if you need to put your hands underneath as a target, push down into your hands. Now
make sure you are not holding your breath. If you can’t talk while you are doing it,
then you are probably holding your breath. You are just going to rotate those hips back
and push flat down. Squeezing those tummy muscles almost like your laughing at something,
tightening them up. Pushing down, holding for about 5 seconds, and then relax. You can
do that about 5-10 times, and then build your way up. So after you do 5 seconds, then try
10 seconds the next day, and then 15 seconds, until you work your way up to holding it for
30 seconds. Now the next one is going to be holding the pelvic tilt, so your flattening
out your back, and doing some movements with it. So pushing down nice and flat, and now
you are going to slightly bring your foot up, and at the same time bring the opposite
arm back while you’re keeping your back flat on the ground. A little bit harder than it
looks, and just rotating back and forth. Again, this is going to really be working that core,
so just start off with 5-10, and then work your way up. If you feel like your back is
coming up, and you are starting to arch a little bit, then take a break because that
means those muscles are getting tired. The last two are going to be stretches. You want
to stretch out your back as well. Doing a flexion movement is what you want, because
that slip is forward, you don’t want to extend your back because that is going to push it
even more. So you want to do flexion type stretches. So you are just going to bring
both knees to your chest, as far as you comfortably can. You want to be relaxed, don’t fight it
with the muscles. If you can get them far enough up, you can bear hug like this, or
if you can’t go that far, you can just hold them about right here. Now if you have knee
problems, you can actually grab underneath your knees so you’re not squishing those knees
tight causing some irritation there, so you might want to hold here. If you can, hold
it for about 30 seconds, and do that 3 times. So the last stretch is going to be for your
hamstrings. You want to make sure to keep your hamstrings nice and stretched out and
loose because they are attached to your pelvis and your hips, and if they are tight, they
are going to pull on that slippage some more, and cause some more irritation. I have a hamstring
stretching video that has a whole bunch of different ways to stretch out your hamstrings,
so if you want to check that out, go ahead and check it out. But the one I am going to
show you today is with a belt. You can use a dog leash, towel, belt. Straighten your
leg out. Lock out that knee, try not to bend the knee, and you’re just going to pull up
as far as you comfortably can and hold that stretch for 30 seconds. Now make sure you
are wrapping it around the ball of your foot, and not way up on your toes so it doesn’t
slip off and hit you. Just hold it for 30 seconds, 3 times. Make sure you do both sides
to keep everything nice and loose. So those were stretches and strengthening exercises
for spondylolisthesis. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section, and if
you would like to check out some other videos, like the hamstring stretching video, go to
askdoctorjo.com And remember be safe, have fun, and I hope you feel better soon!

100 comments on “Spondylolisthesis Exercises & Stretches for Back Pain – Ask Doctor Jo

  1. Ashutosh Rai Post author

    Hey @AskDoctorJo , first of all thanks a ton ! Some exercises really did help me ease out a lot of a pain, but ultimately had to go for a surgery. ( The sensation was travelling in legs!) I had a query though. It has 3.5 months since my operation. In order to re-strengthen the core, the same exercises are to be done ? And as I am not allowed to go for cardio or any sports, any quick advise on how to maintain healthy weight, as a matter of fact loose some ? 🙂

  2. Stephanie Berardi Post author

    Hi Dr. Jo. I really appreciate you doing this video. I have spondylolisthesis in my L5/S1, stage 1. I've been dealing with it for 14 years, but this past week has been so bad, I'm unable to actually move. I got stuck in my bed for half an hour, because I couldn't even roll over. Numbness in my hips, pain in my legs, and severe pain on my right side, lower back. I now find that I can't even put weight on my right foot, because it causes even more pain in my lower back. I need to do some stretches, because I only have 7 days worth of the prescription pain meds I got at urgent care, and if I can't get my pain under control, I have to go see an ortho. I know these are very good for my condition, but I fear with the severe pain I'm in (I can't even use the bathroom without crying out in pain and almost getting stuck there), these stretches may even be too much. Actually, just the thought of getting myself to the floor is my biggest concern. Do you recommend I do these right away, or are there other stretches I can start with to get me slightly more mobile to work up to getting on the floor to stretch? Thank you again for any advice you can give. Obviously without knowing my full condition, you can't do too much, but anything to start will be helpful. I'm scared I'm gonna damage a nerve or worse.

  3. dschim54 Post author

    Hi Dr Jo,  I am very active – have spondylothesis Class 1.  I exercise every day –  weights, walking 3-5 miles several times per week, and yoga. I also do specific core strengthening exercises for this condition.  Recently walking has  started to bother my back (weird) as well as several other exercises that I typically do.  My back will "ache" in the am and some workouts that I do will aggravate it, causing  discomfort for 2-3 days afterwards.  Oh – and I am a  60 year old. female.  What am I doing wrong?  I keep trying different workouts to see what won't "hurt" for days afterwards. Also, is yoga bad for this condition with all of the twisting, etc?  Thanks!

  4. Jodi Decatoire Post author

    Hi Dr. Jo. I have a pars fracture and DD disease in lower back. I'm trying to strengthen my core in hopes of being able to do some light exercise regularly without the associated pain I've been getting. When I did the knee lifts, I have a popping noise on the left side every time I lower the leg. Is this something I should be concerned with and discontinue these? Or will it eventually stop once I strengthen the area? Also, will it help strengthen slowly even if I only do 5 reps to start? Feels like I'm not really "working" anything out, but at night I have slight pain across my lower back. Thank you for these fabulous videos. I'm feeling hopeful 🙂

  5. Amit Shaw Post author

    can I do  plank exercises for my abs??? I still have this pain….I havnt worked out my abs for 4 days due to this pain…Is plank harmful now? I want to get rid of this as soon as possible… Please help.

  6. Nothingbutthebest Post author

    How can you strengthen your back so you don't wind up sloughing over a shopping cart because your back is too weak?

  7. krit verma Post author

    Hi Jo,

    I have got l5-s1 grade 1 spondylolisthesis with degenerative changes.

    can you please suggest on why it happens and what exercise must not be practised in avoid worsening of the situation.

  8. curt refs Post author

    i injured myself 2 month ago at the gym because of a bad movement where i picked up an heavy barbell with my back curve
    i'm not able to go to the gym anymore , my physiotherapist gave me exercices for the  abs that i make everyday since 2 or 3 weeks but the pain is still there depending on move i make and sometimes i feel an " electrical " sensation in my left legs. After a big effort the pain is at 95% in the left side of my low back
    Do i have to stop sport for life or is there  anyway to make this pain disappear ?

  9. 3d86 Post author

    Why woould you stretch hamstrings? I have a spondy and it throws my lower back into hyper extension and my pelvis dumps forward.
    I was told this puts my hamstrings on stretch so stretching them would feed into the issue?????

  10. Vatsala Raghunathan Post author

    Dear Jo
    Thanks a lot for that wonderful video. I developed sudden pain in lower back (seat) today while gardening – I called it a catch , Your simple exercises in this video gave instant relief and reduced the pain   – Still I am getting sharp pains when I go from from sitting or sleeping position to standing posture,  but once I walk a bit, the pain eases off . Any suggestions ? I am a regular Yoga practitioner and walker. 
    Appreciate the service you are doing .

  11. jagz21 Post author

    Hi Dr Jo,

    i have lysis at l5 s1 with slight listhesis.. grade 1 I think.. also I have cervical disc bulge of c5-6. None of the conditions are painful , but I do get tingling or numbness sometimes. 
    Will these exercises help for the listhesis along with the cervical bulge?
    is it ok for me to ride the stationary bike , treadmill and the elliptical machine?

    thank you

  12. Speedy Howard Post author

    Dr. Joe, What exercises/stretches do I do for anterolithesis of L3 on L4 and L4 on L5 AND retrolisthesis of L5 on S1?  Throw in adult onset scoliosis (which I haven't grasped how severe-still learning).  My orthopedic surgeon (top notch) says it would be a complicated surgery, long recovery time (maybe a year) if it even worked.  Have had two unsuccessful ESI's.  What not to do (in general) would be helpful, too. Thanks.

  13. Nidhi Yadav Post author

    hi doc Jo..your video is really helpful..I have L5 S1 level Spondylosis that causing nerve root compression.
    can u pls suggest me the exercise so that I can get back to my normal life.
    thank u in anticipation..

  14. Ram Prasad Post author

    Dr jo. 3 weeks back I was diagnosed with spondylolesthies l5 s1 grade 1. I am 24 now. My doctor said it is congenital. I am feeling afraid that it would go further. What kind of activities I should do to make it normal?

  15. Droppinthehammer Post author

    Hi Doctor Jo…I had an x-ray and the findings were that there appears to be bilateral pars interarticularis defects at L5 with anterollisthesis of L5 on S1 by approx .7 cm. And a mild intervertebral disc space narrowing at L5-S1 and L4-5. Do you think I should get an MRI and see a spine specialist? Or just doing physical therapy might help the pain. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Ariel Volovik Post author

    Doctor Jo, I can do everything easily and I don't get pain normally but when I lie down the lower back really low the bone pops out and it pushes on it and it hurts, I've been practicing wing chun (the traditional way) and we do llot's of cotton vest anyways breathing ( abdominal breathing etc) so I lie down usually and it hurts allot less now but I still can't do any ab workouts for reaisin my legs and putting hands under because it just makes me tilt left or right because of the bone 🙁 any suggestions?

  17. Tina Klose Post author

    Hi there, thanks so much for this video! Just wondering whether strengthening the hamstrings would not promote a posterior tilt of the pelvis (and hence relieving the pressure on the vertebrae) rather than stretching the hamstrings (as you indicate in the video)? Thanks for getting back to me, happy new year 🙂 tina

  18. F S Post author

    so its not really possible to move the spine back in its place with any exercises? they just make your muscles stronger to release the pain? I hope I am wrong..

  19. San Post author

    what can i do for idiopathic scoliosis a little more than a 20 degree curve? I have a pain above my left gluteal area feels like i am lying on a pebble. When I massage it I feel sore. My tail bone feels a bit tight when i stand over 5 mins then i feel little pinches in my lower back. I have not been able to function 2 weeks now. I've had scoliosis since I was 13 and now i am 27. Sitting hurts as well and lying down is not entirely comfortable.

  20. Debbie Andio ChronicallyGratefulDebla Post author

    I have isthmic Spondylolisthesis l5 s 1 and Osteonecrosis medial femoral condyle(due to a meniscus tear) medial in the in rt knee Help ! my muscles all feel weak and tired and knee pain is hindering me, i have done all my pt but wow i need to keep learning to build up core and also help knee pain . Thanks

  21. Abood Absi Post author

    i have it on l5 and s1 and it is degree 3, do you recommend a surgery or is there a physical therapy, because I'm afraid of a surgery in my spine, pleas help my country is not very developed in this case

  22. Sandra McCaffrey Post author

    Hi DoctorJo~Really appreciate your video. With a Grade II spondylolethesis and scoliosis, is there any one exercise or stretch you recommend to help both? I've tried yoga classes and they always say "do what you can" which doesn't really give me much confidence since I know I could hurt myself in the wrong pose. Thanks so much!!!

  23. Riley LaForge Post author

    I'm conflicted on hamstring stretches for spondylolisthesis. Tight hamstrings have a propensity to produce a posterior pelvic tilt which is one of the exercise. Wouldn't lengthening the hamstrings produce a relative anterior pelvic tilt that would exacerbate the spondy? Or is the premise for stretching the hamstrings simply for mobility around the pelvis?

  24. Lucky Skunk Post author

    Extremely helpful. Currently bed riddin at a loss for what to do. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving (if you're Canadian that is)

  25. Rahul Gaikwad Post author

    My mom having Spondylolisthesis defect L4 over L5 can this exercise works to recover if yes then tell me how much time it will take ?

  26. pro126 Post author

    Hi Doctor Jo I have moderate lumbar scoliosis concave to the right side and bilateral Pars defects at the L5 level With grade 2 secondary spondylolisthesis I was wondering if it was a good idea to have someone push down on my back after these stretches they're the same stretches that my physiotherapist has asked me to do as well. thank you for the video

  27. Zac Mitchell Post author

    Hi Doctor Jo, very good video thank you so much. I have grade 1 spondylolisthesis on L5 and like doing yoga, would you know which yoga postures are bad for this condition? Thank you!

  28. Denny N Post author

    Hi Doctor, I have spondilolisthesis L5-S about 1 cm and doctor said that it could by better to go for surgery. Vertebra is unstable during reclines and bent. Do you think that its a good idea? Is there a possibility that the vertebra become stable? Whats about swimming? Thank you

  29. Yogamama100 Post author

    I have intense pain when I'm laying down. I get extreme sciatica like pain from the Spondylolisthesis every night. Please advise. Thank you in advance

  30. DaniJo2320 Post author

    In addition to these things, do you think that decompression helps lumbar spondylolisthesis? More specifically, a decompression table

  31. Bill Breed Post author

    My goal is to run a 10k in April but I'm concerned about my spondy holding on throughout my training. I had a slippage two weeks and I'm slowly getting it back in place but always fragile. How often should I be doing these exercises? Any other tips for me?

  32. Samantha Hewick Post author

    I was diagnosed with a Spondylolisthesis in the L4-L5 back in August, was in a back brace for 13 weeks, and now I'm back to exercising. While running i find that my hips and shins now get muscle pain through them. And this causes the right side of my lower back to spasm and contract every time I jump, twist, and run. I am constantly in pain, at about a 4/10 pain wise. Any posture exercises you have? or stretches? or videos on how to re-teach walking? i walk and run on the outsides of my feet, this causes my shin splints, then my hips are off, and it causes the right side of my back to have pain. any suggestions?

  33. Armando Estrada Post author

    What exactly causes that? I served in the Army for 4 years, can extended use of body armor and ruck sacks cause that problem?? Thanks.

  34. linderton Post author

    Dr. Joe, These exercises are great. I especially like the pelvic tilts. Any chance you could do a video on why the pars interarticularis cannot be fixed, like any other broken bone? It seems to be a bit of a mystery, and yet it's what us "spondy" sufferers really need. Thanks!

  35. MOHD. RASHED Post author

    Thank u very much Doctor. I have spondylosis. I can't walking first it is painful for me & my backbone is also geting down front side. Backbone joint pain problem also. Please tell me what should i can do ?

  36. Sofia Mavromati Post author

    Good exercises.,! If you have more stretching suggestions for spondylolesthesis please post them!! Cheers!

  37. Ayub Pardede Post author

    hello doc.. i was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. i heard when you said strengthen core muscle to prevent this illness to getting even worse.. recently i try HIIT called freeletics.. can i still doing that workout? because i do alot of burpees in there.. please respon ASAP thank you doc

  38. Deepak Post author

    Thanks for it because it really helped my dad I was worried that something might happen to him but then you showed up and helped my dad so I hope you keep making videos!!!

  39. Sanjoli Bassi Post author

    Mam why cannot pars defect heal? I did rest for 2 years but no relief and now dont you think exercising and gyming will make this condition worse? Or we shall go with it?

  40. jeffrey jefferton Post author

    when you start to add your arms and legs to the movement, is there a way to reduce the knee pain , similar to holding the static stretch with hands behind the knees??

  41. jeffrey jefferton Post author

    so its an incorrect movement if you imagine spilling a little cup of water off your pelvis?? sometimes i think women can do these movements more effectively cuz they have wider hips (anatomically correct for child bearing)…

  42. toper de joya Post author

    I have a grade 1 spondy and i use bicycle as my transportation to go to work. Is it good or bad to go cycling?

  43. chirag saini Post author

    hi Doctor Jo, can you please help me with your mail id. I am in severe pain and lookingfor experts advice.

  44. Khan Mgl Post author

    Hi Dr!
    My friend has spondylolisthesis of L4 on L5.
    L4 slipped over L5 about 50%. I thinks it's grade 2.
    What should we do?
    Is this exercise enough?
    Reply as soon as possible

  45. Ahmed Osman Post author

    I have spondylolthesis Do I did theses exercises there isn't any dangerous on me and I consulted my doctor he told me do exercises like back and leg please any recommendations to me

  46. Elie Azar Post author

    Hello doc. If the spondy is at certain level. It can create pain above the level of pain . Talking in lower back

  47. harathi panigrahi Post author

    hai My age is 24. I have back pain only after sitting I did mri in that mild lithesis of l5-sone. disc prolapse and degenerative changes.. is there any big pblem I have…?? this pblem will go to surgery situation in future??? pls tell me

  48. Hayati Kilic Post author

    Dear Dr. Jo. Thanks so much for your amazing videos. They are so helpful. One question. I have herniated discs at L3-L4, L4-L5 and have grade 1 spondylolisthesis at L5-S1. Any excercise recommendations for the people who has both herniated disc and spondylolisthesis at the same time? I relaize that some excercises good for the herniated disc and same ones bad for spondylolisthesis so i am really confused!! Thanks a lot in advance.

  49. Freedom Rules Post author

    Hi Dr Jo, would you recommend the same exercises for retrolisthesis ? I am guessing they would be the same ?

  50. Chris Williams Post author

    Hi Doctor Jo,
    Can one of the symptoms of spondylolisthesis be pain in SI joints? Primarily the left for me, but sometimes it's the right one. Also for the first stretch when you progress to 30 seconds is it 30 seconds 10 times?

  51. Mahi MSD Post author

    lumbar spondylosis…
    disc desiccation with disc diffuse bulge at L4-4 level along with facet joint ……
    above is the summary of MRI lumbar spine….
    please tell us the treatment and exercise …..
    I can also mail you my MRI reports …
    eagerly waiting for your reply….
    you are doing a great job…
    god bless you

  52. Ron For_Ever Post author

    hey i have this l4/l5 except for me i never feel the pain unless im sitting for 5 hours strait no moving at all ill feel pain .. i Have a grade 1 should i try these exercises

  53. Austin Post author

    Hamstring stretches, of all kinds including yours, make me feel significantly worse with my back pain and it hurts the back of my knees. In your experience, does this usually coincide with this issue or perhaps another one?

  54. Farhat Shaikh Post author

    dr. im a physiotherapy student…what about when patient have retrolisthesis…which biased to follow than…will treatment be same??

  55. Jane jikook Post author

    Hi Dr Jo your exercise is just wonderful I will definitely try it.. because am in early lambar spondylosis as my CT as shown… So one question I want to ask is that it is okay if I go for morning walk as am gaining weight and some people advice me for not doing exercises as it may lead to serious pain at my back so please tell me what should I do…. Thanks for the video and God bless you.

  56. namich sor Post author

    Hello doctor Jo. how many minutes need to practice this excercise every day ?( i have spondylolithesis l5s1 grade1)

  57. Mohsin Nawaz Post author

    Hello there you are really doing a good job.
    This exercise actually is a pain relief for me.
    Well just wanted to ask whether there is a permanent cure to spondylolisthesis

  58. shivamdeep garg Post author

    Hi Dr. Jo.

    I have sponsololysis L5/S1 from 1 year. After 9 months i came to know that i have this problem. When doc suggest me for x-ray.
    I have few questions please help me.
    – Is it ok if i use heat belt for 5 min at night before going to sleep? lower back support belt while on bike?
    Will it give some help?
    – Is it fully recoverable with out surgery?
    – I know that it is recovering with these exercises(same was suggested by my doc) but still i dont know how much time will it take more?

    Thanks you very much for your support.

  59. Narikinabiilli Jyotsna Post author

    Dear Dr. Jo
    I have spondylolisthesis grade 1 as well as spondylosis. Can I do back extension exercises. Please suggest

  60. Niyati Patel Post author

    Hello dear doctor
    Can a grade 1 slip be permanently be maintained in its position with exercise and life style changes, or a future slip is bound to happen as you age since the vertebrae is not anchored anymore. I have a grade 1 slip l5 over s1 and have issue with leg pain when I sit down but goes away as soon as I stand up or walk. I’m also planning on pregnancy and was wondering if that will cause it to slip further. Please help me find answers
    Thank you

  61. Vinay Jadon Post author

    Hi Dr. i got below impression in MRI report : L5-S1:- Bilateral spondylolysis with mild anterolisthesis causing mild

    bilateral lateral recess – neural foraminal narrowing.
    Will the same exercise work for it or try other new …Please suggest.

  62. Rukhsana Chaudery Post author

    Hi I am diagnosed spondylolisthesis and herniated disc L4/L5 . Getting a sciatica pain tingling lower leg and foot . I would appreciate some exercise as it is quite confusing ? I am very active and doing the best I can . Pls help . Thanks

  63. Shadman Sakib Post author

    Hi Dr.! I am Only 13 Years Old..I have The Same Problem..Can I Do this Exercises?? Because I am 13 Years Old!

  64. Brett Martin Post author

    Any good tips/advice for differentiating the pain or just advice in general for someone who has both ankylosing spondylitis (currently only in SI joints) and Grade 1 spondylolysis/spondylolisthesis/anterolisthesis at L5-S1? Also what are your thoughts of someone being able to play tennis/lift weights/run again after being diagnosed with both these issues? Especially for serving with tennis where you extend your back which might be a no no for spondylolisthesis. Thanks!

  65. Gabriel Bejenaru Post author

    Can I do this exercises after I had the surgery? My GP told.me to go to gym and swimm and hopefully the pain and stiffness will go away so I can go back to work. I had surgery 5 months ago, and no doctor has told me until now or even mentioned that I should do some exercises. Not even what type of exercises.

  66. amar kumar Post author

    Thankyou for the video ma’am, i wanna ask whether that vertebrae go back to its place or not. I am suffering from grade 1 L5 S1

  67. Sandra Liversidge Post author

    Will these exercises help to shift the disk back in place,  at least a little?  I had L5 and L 4 fused 4 years ago and now  L 3 has slipped way off.

  68. Swajith Ns Post author

    Is there anyway by which i can get the slipped bone i.e. ( Spondylolisthesis) to it normal position and cure it completely as before.or surgery is only option to make it normal. OR.
    this video is about "stabilise the spine to prevent it slipping further" but can we push the vertebral back in the original position?

  69. Satnam Singh G Satmam G Post author

    Hello my dear doctor me problem is spondylitis b 27 please give answer my life bad

  70. Farjana faria. Post author

    After it gets better what will be the next step?now i am feeling better for your advice. Thanks mam…

  71. Joseph Nevin Post author

    Can you reverse this . Or am I stuck with this . Looks like a horrible future for me . An i am just starting my life at 20 years old looks hope less .

  72. Michelle Fearon Post author

    I have spondylolisthesis and Divarication of the Recti muscle. Which exercises can I do for each condition without making the other worse? Thank you.


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