Spondylolysis, which is a small fracture in a section of vertebrae commonly located in the lower back, is a common cause of low back pain in teenage athletes and, less commonly, adults. Although it is unknown specifically what causes spondylolysis, it is thought that it may be the result of a genetic defect. Spondylolysis is initially treated non-surgically with rest and a back brace, if necessary. After a period of recovery, the patient may resume limited activity, and exercises that strengthen and stretch the back and abdominal area are often recommended.
When beginning an exercise program for spondylolysis, it is important to start with small movements that slowly increase range of motion in the vertebrae. Pelvic tilts are a good example of a foundation exercise to increase strength and flexibility. To perform a pelvic tilt, lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles so that your tailbone almost lifts off the floor, and press your lower back down into the floor. Hold for five seconds and release. Repeat 10 times.
Dead bug is the next step after the pelvic tilt. It works deeper into the lower abdominal area and encourages a bit more range of motion in the lumbar spine. To do dead bug, lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdomen, and curl your tailbone up as you did in the pelvic tilt. Holding here, lift one foot a few inches off the floor, keeping the abdominal muscles engaged. Hold here for five seconds and then switch legs. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Quadruped Arm and Leg Raise
Once you have regained a reasonable amount of strength in your core, you can progress to the arm and leg raise. You may want to take this exercise in parts, starting with just the arm raise until you feel comfortable, and then moving on to add in the legs. To perform the exercise get on your hands and knees on a soft surface. Bring your spine into a neutral position by gently tucking your navel in toward your spine. Lift your right arm up and straight out in front of you. Keeping your abdominal muscles engaged, extend your left leg behind you with the leg straight. The goal is to bring the arm and leg parallel to the floor at the same height as the torso. Hold here for five seconds and then switch sides. Repeat on each side three to five times. To challenge yourself, increase the amount of time you hold each time.