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Is Walking Good For Spondylolisthesis?

The term Spondylolisthesis refers to the slippage of the vertebral part parallel to the adjacent vertebra. It is the displacement of the vertebra with the related vertebra under it.1 This may occur due to the structural changes that might be caused by any fracture, spondylolysis, or any kind of degenerative changes in the spine caused by degenerative disease in the disc. Only 5% of the total population suffers from spondylolisthesis.

The other forms are Retrolisthesis in which the upper vertebral body is displaced towards the back that is related to the vertebra below it. Laterolisthesis is the displacement of the vertebra sideways. This is a rare form and occurs owing to the degeneration of the spine, asymmetrical fractures or even scoliosis. Spondylolisthesis might not show up its symptoms for years after the occurrence of the slippage. Some of the symptoms are as below:

  • Pain in lower back, leg and buttock 2
  • An increase in the sway back
  • Pain and difficulty in arching the back
  • Tightness in hamstrings in most cases.

The advanced stages shows up neurological signs like tingling, numbness, reduced reflexes, sciatica pain and a deformity may also observed in the lower back. Spondylolisthesis can be a serious condition if not taken care off on time. There are different exercises for dealing with spondylolisthesis. Walking is considered as one of the ways of dealing with it however, it is debatable. Before we learn further regarding effectiveness of walking, let us first see the causes of spondylolishesis.

Causes of Spondylolisthesis

There are two major causes of Spondylolisthesis. They are isthmic spondylolisthesis related with spondylolysis and degenerative spondylolisthesis that is related to the degenerating joints of the posterior facet or some degenerative disease of the disc. The later one has the most occurrence as compared to the isthmic spondylolisthesis that shows up to (84.6%) in the lumbosacral level.

Other form like Dysplastic spondylolisthesis also called as congenital spondylolisthesis occurs at birth if the facet joint structure is poorly formed which leads to slippage of the vertebra.3

If you are suffering from spondylolisthesis or vertebral slippage, and the symptoms are high, there are lots of treatments that will give you relief. Before deciding to take up walking as an important part of the treatment, you must consult the doctor to know your current condition.

Is Walking Good For Spondylolisthesis?

Is Walking Good for Spondylolisthesis?

Along with pain medicines, hot and cold compression, and rest, it is very important to keep yourself active physically while at this condition. You must consult with your doctor to get a proper treatment. Many doctors suggest the patients with low-grade spondylolisthesis to walk which has potential benefits. The doctor will suggest you the proper ways and time of walking that will give you benefit. You must start doing it with ease and for a shorter time. Gradually the time must be increased, as well as the intensity. While walking, it is of utmost importance to maintain a good posture that reduces the strain in the spine during a walk.

The benefits of walking that the patients of spondylolisthesis can obtain are:

  • It improves the cardio-vascular health which in turn escalates the flow of blood and nutrition to the spinal cord.
  • Strengthen muscles, thereby reducing the pressure on spine that adds up to the pain of spondylolisthesis.
  • It enhances the mental wellness and relieves pain because the body releases endorphins.

While walking, pay attention to the body signals. Take some rest when you are tired and do not strain yourself.

Is Surgery A Solution For Spondylolisthesis?

Surgery can be considered as a solution for spondylolisthesis, when the other traditional treatments fail to give a necessary solution.3 With a combination of exercises, like walking along with injections in the spinal cord, therapies and medications, patients live life comfortably in the long run. When all these above mentioned treatments fail to work, surgery is suggested.

If you are suggested surgery, you must contact a good hospital. You may consider invasive spine surgery which is safe and constructive too as compared to the conservative open back surgery. The skilled surgeons will make an incision of 1-inch to reach the spine which will be followed by an outpatient procedure as well.

Exercises to Avoid in Spondylolisthesis

Although walking helps, but there are certain exercises that must be avoided when suffering from spondylolisthesis because that may increase the strains in the back. You must consult with your doctor and inform him specifically about your condition so as to get correct advises on the exercises.

Below are some exercises that must be avoided:

  • Weight Lifting: Lifting weight can be dangerous if it is not done properly. It can hurt the back severely as it puts extra pressure on the back in several ways especially in the lumber area.4 So, it is advisable to avoid weight lifting completely.
  • Hyperactivity: Being active is extremely important while recovering from spondylolisthesis, but hyper activity is not advised. You must stay away from those activities that might add up to the back pain. Sports like basketball, football, and cricket must be avoided.
  • Bend and Twist: Though exercise is good and strengthens the abdominal and back muscles, but twisting and bending down to touch the toe must be avoided since, this might add up to the injury and increase the pain.

Spondylolisthesis can be caused due to the defects at birth, some pathological damage owing to tumor, abnormality in bone, bone injury or fracture in the vertebra and the degeneration of cartilage in the spine due to osteoarthritis. One needs to go deep in to the root cause to try to cure it. Sometimes you may have the control, but at the other you might not have control over the situation. Intervention of the doctor is highly suggested to analyze the cause and plan the treatment accordingly.

Since the pain is related to spine, you must not risk your situation with further delay and get help as fast as possible. Detection at the earlier stage may save you from lot of problems, but the delay might cost you a lot, affect the balance of your life, break from the career owing to the rest you would require, and sometimes surgery followed with a lengthy period of bed rest.

Therefore, if you are experiencing discomfort accompanied by pain in the spine, it’s time for you to fix an appointment with a spine doctor.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 19, 2019

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