Physical Therapy for Spondylolisthesis

Reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

A physical therapy program is one of the more effective ways to treat spondylolisthesis for 2 main reasons: (1) It can help strengthen the muscles that support your spine, and (2) it can teach you how to keep your spine safe and prevent further and future injury.

Physical therapy includes both passive and active treatments.

Passive Treatments
Your physical therapist may give you passive treatments such as:

Active Treatments
In the active part of physical therapy, your therapist will teach you various exercises to improve your flexibility, strength, core stability, and range of motion (how easily your joints move). Your physical therapy program is individualized, taking into consideration your health and history. Your exercises may not be suitable for another person with spondylolisthesis.

If needed, you will learn how to correct your posture and incorporate ergonomic principles into your daily activities. This is all part of the "self-care" or "self-treatment" aspect of physical therapy: Through physical therapy, you learn good habits and principles that enable you to take better care of your body.

Your physical therapist may also suggest a personalized exercise program for you. This can help reduce the likelihood of your back pain recurring and can also improve your overall health. For spondylolisthesis, the physical therapist will likely recommend abdominal strengthening and hamstring work because both of those muscle groups are crucial to low back support.

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