Low Back Exercises for Spondylolisthesis
If you're experiencing low back pain, don't worry as you're not alone. If you have never experienced low back pain consider yourself lucky!
It is estimated that 80 percent of people will experience low back pain at one point in their life, with most cases being mechanical and not caused by a serious condition.
Unfortunately however, some will experience more chronic low back pain and this may be caused by a spondylolisthesis, or a slippage of a vertebrae forward or backward with respect to the vertebrae below. In some cases you may have no control over the injury, whereas in other cases it may be caused by overuse.
A sponylothesis can be the result of various mechanisms including a birth defect, trauma to the vertebrae, a fracture as the result of an overuse injury, arthritis or an infection to the joint. If you are among the active population, the most common reason is an overuse injury from repetitive hyperextension (excessive arching) of the low back. This places excess pressure on the vertebrae causing a likely fracture and slippage.
So whether you have an existing spondylolithesis, or you are trying to prevent one from occurring, the goal is to prevent the spine from undergoing excessive stress. Accomplish this by using exercises that strengthen the core, which helps to stabilize the spine.
The deadbug exercise challenges you to prevent the back from going into hyperextension as the arms and legs are moving. This is critical to keep excess motion from occurring at the spine.
How To: Lying on your back, bend your knees to 90 degrees. Bring the arms over your chest and engage your abs as you focus on keeping your back flat to the floor. Lift the feet off of the ground so your knees are over your hips, without your back arching off of the ground. Keep the back to the ground as you reach the opposite hand and leg out to opposite sides of the room. Bring the arm and leg back to the middle and repeat to the other side. You should feel the work taking place in your core, not your back.
Just like the deadbug, the bird dog is an exercise where you focus on keeping your spine and hips from moving while the arms and legs are in motion.
How To: Start in an all-fours position and engage your abs so that your low back is relatively flat -- sometimes called neutral. Lift the opposite hand and leg and push them both as far out as possible while preventing the hips from shifting side to side and the low back from arching. Focus on lengthening the arm and leg. Imagine a glass of water on your low back and do not let it spill! You should feel the core working to prevent the excess motion of the hips and low back.
The plank is the classic exercise to help strengthen the core as a whole to prevent the spine from moving excessively. Again here, the goal here is to feel the work taking place in the core and not the low back as this is the most important focus of these exercises.
How To: Start with you forearms on the ground and your knees bent. Engage your abs to keep the hips from tipping forward as you extend one leg out, and then the other leg. Focus on keeping your "zipper up" to prevent the low back from arching and hips from sagging. Hold the plank for 10 to 30 seconds.
Once you have developed a solid foundation you can work into preventing rotation about the hips and spine.
For the anti-rotation work start with a half kneeling anti-rotation press and work your way to a standing position.
How To: Use a cable or band set at hip height. Take a half kneeling position so the knee closest to the cable is down. Grab the handle and bring it to the center of your chest. Without the body moving, press the handle straight out from the chest. After you have completed eight to 12 reps switch sides and face the other direction with the other knee down and complete another eight to 12 reps.
Eventually you can go from the half kneeling position to the standing position.
Kyle Arsenault is a performance coach, author and former intern of the renown Cressey Performance. Now working with Momentum PT, he specializes in combining principles of physical therapy with strength and conditioning to enhance overall performance for his competitive athletes as well as his general population athletes.