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Back Pain Center

Low Back Exercises for Spondylolisthesis

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Low Back Exercises for Spondylolisthesis
Stomach-strengthening exercises can help to stabilize your back. Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Your spine is a long stack of vertebrae that allows you to twist, lift and lean. These vertebrae can slip out of place, however, which is a condition known as spondylolisthesis. This commonly occurs in the lower back in the lumbar vertebrae, causing symptoms ranging from low back pain to muscle tightness in your thighs and buttocks. If you experience spondylolisthesis, a physician may recommend exercises to emphasize flexibility and build strength in your abdominal and back muscles. Before undertaking a new exercise program, always consult with your physician.

Abdominal Exercises

Strong abdominal muscles help to support the back and add stability to your core area, which comprises the stomach and back. Examples of abdominal exercises that reduce spondylolisthesis symptoms include crunches, which involve lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head and contract your abdominal muscles to lift your head off the ground. Slowly lower to the ground and repeat 10 times. Rest, then repeat for two additional sets. If your range of motion is limited, you also can lie on your back and focus on contracting your abdominal muscles without lifting your head off the ground.

Hamstring Stretches

Your hamstrings are the muscle group in the back of your upper thighs. Spondylolisthesis can cause these muscles to become tightened, which can add to back pain. To reduce this pain, you can engage in stretching exercises targeted at the hamstrings. Examples include lying on your back and slowly bringing one straightened leg toward your chest. Grasp your leg with your hands, gently pulling it toward your chest. Hold for 10 seconds, then release the stretch and repeat on the other leg. Another hamstring stretch involves leaning forward as if trying to touch your toes, feeling the gentle pull on your hamstrings.

Back Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening the muscles of the back also helps to add stability to take the pressure from your spine. One exercise that targets both the back and the abdominal muscles is the hook-lying march, which involves lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your low back pressed to the ground if possible. Contract your abdominal and back muscles to slowly lift your right foot off the ground, raising it about 3 inches from the floor. Slowly lower to your starting position and repeat on the left leg. Continue alternating marching steps for 20 total repetitions.


If your exercises or pain begins to interfere with your daily life or does not respond to conservative measures after between eight to 12 weeks, seek a physician’s evaluation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In this instance, you may require surgical intervention to repair the damaged vertebrae.

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