When you’re diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, you might be wondering what to expect. To help you understand your condition and how to manage it effectively, here’s an overview of what you should know about living with spondylolisthesis.
What Is Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis (pronounced “spon-dl-oh-lis-thee-sis”) is a spinal condition. It happens when one of your spinal bones (vertebrae) slips forward.
Doctors often talk about “grades” or “degrees” of spondylolisthesis. The grade simply means the degree of slippage; for example, grade I spondylolisthesis is less severe than grade IV.
Spondylolisthesis normally affects vertebrae in your lower back, but it can also affect the mid to upper back or the neck. The symptoms include lower back pain, muscle tightness, pain which extends into the legs, and difficulty walking or standing for long periods. You might also experience numbness, tingling, or pins and needles down to your foot if the vertebrae impinges a nerve root.
There’s no single cause of spondylolisthesis.
For some patients, the spine doesn’t form properly before birth. However, It can also happen if there’s a spinal fracture, or due to wear and tear of the joints over time.
What Makes Spondylolisthesis Worse?
When you’re living with spondylolisthesis, it’s important to avoid movements which make the condition worse. Movements which may aggravate spondylolisthesis include:
- Repeated bending, extending, or twisting motions
- Sitting slumped or hunched over
- Lifting objects with a rounded back
The key is to stay as active as possible while avoiding movements which make your individual condition worse. That’s why it’s so important to consult a specialist; they can help you stay mobile without aggravating your spondylolisthesis.
Spondylolisthesis Exercises to Avoid
Typically, you’ll want to avoid exercises which require twisting, bending, or flexing of the spine. Sports and movements to avoid include:
- Certain pilates and yoga poses e.g. upward dog, cobra
- Contact sports
You should also avoid any exercises that cause pain. Your specialist can explain what activities are safe for you based on your condition and existing medical history.
Is Walking Good for Spondylolisthesis?
Walking helps to keep your muscles and joints mobile without placing extra pressure on your lower back, so it’s often recommended for spondylolisthesis patients. Start with daily 5 or 10-minute walks, keeping your spine neutral and your shoulders relaxed.
Just remember to pace yourself and stop or slow down if walking aggravates your symptoms.
How to Sit With Spondylolisthesis
When you’re living with spondylolisthesis, it’s important to sit with good posture.
- Sit with a neutral spine. Don’t slouch.
- Keep your lower back supported by using a pillow or sitting flush against the chair.
- Sit with your feet flat on the ground rather than sitting cross-legged or hunched over.
A physical therapist can show you how to sit with good posture if you’re unsure.