Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis Exercises

It’s important to have strong muscles to support your spine. These exercises help build strong abdominal and back muscles.

  • Pelvic tilt: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and push your lower back into the floor, flattening your back. Hold this position for 15 seconds, then relax. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

As the pelvic tilt gets easier, you can start doing the following exercises.

  • Dead bug: Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms at your sides, and feet flat on the floor. Draw in your abdomen and tighten your abdominal muscles. While keeping your abdominal muscles tight and knees bent, lift one leg several inches off the floor, hold for 5 seconds, and then lower it. Repeat this exercise with the opposite leg. Then lift your arm over your head, hold for 5 seconds, and then lower it. Repeat with the opposite arm. Do 5 repetitions with each leg and arm.

    Once this exercise gets easy, raise one leg and the opposite arm together. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower your arm and leg and raise the opposite arm and leg up and hold for 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 5 repetitions.

  • Gluteal stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Rest your right ankle over the knee of your left leg. Grasp the thigh of the left leg and pull toward your chest. You will feel a stretch along the buttocks and possibly along the outside of your hip. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Then repeat the exercise with your left ankle over your right knee. Do the exercise 3 times with each leg.
  • Quadruped arm and leg raise: Get down on your hands and knees. Pull in your belly button and tighten your abdominal muscles to stiffen your spine. While keeping your abdominals tight, raise one arm and the opposite leg away from you. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Lower your arm and leg slowly and change sides. Do this 10 times on each side.
  • Partial curl: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Draw in your abdomen and tighten your stomach muscles. With your hands stretched out in front of you, curl your upper body forward until your shoulders clear the floor. Hold this position for 3 seconds. Don't hold your breath. It helps to breathe out as you lift your shoulders. Relax back to the floor. Repeat 10 times. Build to 2 sets of 15. To challenge yourself, clasp your hands behind your head and keep your elbows out to your sides.
  • Double knee to chest: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles and push your lower back into the floor. Pull both knees up to your chest. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax and then repeat 10 to 20 times.
  • Side plank: Lie on your side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up onto your forearm with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Lift your hips off the floor and balance on your forearm and the outside of your foot. Try to hold this position for 15 seconds and then slowly lower your hip to the ground. Switch sides and repeat. Work up to holding for 1 minute. This exercise can be made easier by starting with your knees and hips flexed toward your chest.

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