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8 Exercises You Can Do at Home for Spondylolisthesis Grade 1

Published June 23, 2020
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Bridgit Kin-Charlton, CPT
Approximately 6 percent of American adults suffer from spondylolisthesis, the result of living with untreated spondylolysis. Spondylolisthesis comes from the Greek words ‘spondylo’ meaning spine and ‘lithesis’ meaning slipping, spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips forward causing a wide range grades, types, and symptoms.

While there are five major types of spondylolisthesis, the two most common types are isthmic and degenerative which occurs in the lower back. For adults, the most common cause of spondylolisthesis is from degenerative arthritis. After knowing the type of spondylolisthesis, next the grade of the slippage needs to be determined to decide what treatment options are needed for your specific case. There are four grades of slippage: Grade 1: 0% to 25%, Grade 2: 26% to 50%, Grade 3: 51% to 75% and Grade 4: 76% to 99. Grades 1 and 2 are considered low-grade slips and Grades 3 and 4 are high-grade slips. Conservative treatment may include over-the-counter or prescribed pain medication, epidural injections to relieve swelling and pain, and/or eight to 12 weeks of daily physical therapy. If slippage increases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Exercises In this Article

Exercises for Spondylolisthesis

A 2013 Sports Health study found improvements in individuals with spondylolisthesis from bracing and various targeted exercises. The best exercises highlighted in this study includes lumbar extension and flexion and strengthening abdominal and lower back muscles. By strengthening your core and back muscles through these exercises, you can prevent further slippage in your spine and increase back flexibility.

Depending on your specific lower back pain, these exercises may not be recommended therapy and can be harmful to you and your recovery—always talk with your doctor or specialist before incorporating new exercise routines into your treatment plan. Each exercise below should be performed in 1 to 2 sets of 15 to 30 reps each every other day for best results.

Start by lying on your back, knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Next, contract your abdomen muscles while tilting your pelvis, like you are pressing your spine into the floor. Hold this flexed position for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Start by getting into standard pushup position. Hands should remain under shoulders.
Use you toes to stabilize your body while tightening your abdominals and glutes. Your body should be firm with your head aligned with your back. Knees should be be firm, but not locked. Face should be toward the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

While lying on your back, extend your hands above you towards the ceiling and bring your feet, knees and hips up to form a 90-degree angle. Inhale as you flatten your back on the floor and rotate your pelvis up while squeezing your glutes. Exhale and slowly lower your left leg and right arm simultaneously until your back starts to arch or rise off the ground. Return to the starting position and alternate sides for 8 to 12 times.

Start on your back, knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Lift one knee to your chest while your lower back and opposite foot rest against the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Alternate legs and repeat this exercise 2 to 4 times.

For this exercise, start on your hands and knees, tightening your abdominal muscles. Raise one arm straight out, then stretch the opposite leg away from your body. Hold for five seconds, slowly return your arm and leg to the mat and alternate for 10 repetitions on each side.

First, lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet on the floor. With your arms at your sides on the floor for balance, slowly rotate your knees to the right side as far as you can go, then to the left side. Repeat this rotation in a slow and controlled manner, 10 times for each side.

Start by sitting on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Lean forward, reaching for your toes until you feel the stretch throughout the back of your legs. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 5 times to stretch your hamstrings and decrease back pain.

This is an additional stretch for the lower back and leg muscles. Start on your back with your knees bent and slowly pull one leg into your chest for 10 seconds. Alternate sides and repeat 5 times.

Updated: June 22, 2020

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Contributors and Experts

Jerry Nichols, MD is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with Carilion Clinic.