Physical therapy for spondylolisthesis

For many patients diagnosed with spondylolisthesis — the slippage of one vertebra over top of the lower vertebra — physical therapy can be an effective method of treatment.

Because spondylolisthesis often develops with the natural degeneration of the spine over time, simple exercises and stretches can help lengthen and realign the spine, while simultaneously strengthening the core muscles to hold the spine in alignment. As the vertebrae of the spine begin to move back into alignment, the body can begin the healing process for the spine.

If you have been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis and you are searching for treatment options, consult your physician or spine care specialist about physical therapy. Your doctor should be able to recommend a reputable physical therapist in your area who can help you find pain relief and restore your spine.

Purpose of physical therapy for spondylolisthesis

A physical therapist’s main objective for patients with spondylolisthesis is to lengthen the spine to allow the slipped vertebra to move back into place and to strengthen the large muscles surrounding the spine to help hold the alignment.

Since spondylolisthesis primarily affects the spine, the physical therapy routine will include exercises to strengthen abdominal and back muscles so that the spine is adequately supported. A therapist may also incorporate hot/cold therapies, deep tissue massage or electrical nerve stimulation to help reduce muscle tension and muscle spasms in the back and legs.

Physical therapy for spondylolisthesis also has another important area of focus: flexibility. Oftentimes, spondylolisthesis causes the hamstrings to tense up to the extent that walking becomes difficult or painful. A patient experiencing this condition will walk with shortened, rigid movements, which can be described as “waddling” motions. To address this, a physical therapist will encourage stretches that increase flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, and can also teach proper lifting and walking techniques to further improve the condition.

When to seek surgical treatment for spondylolisthesis

For many patients, physical therapy and other conservative methods are effective in treating spondylolisthesis symptoms. In the event that such treatments do not work, there are other options. Minimally invasive procedures, like those offered at Laser Spine Institute, use the latest technology and techniques to decompress nerves in the spine and alleviate symptoms of spondylolisthesis. Performed in an outpatient setting, our procedures are less disruptive to vital muscles and tissues, so the recovery time is shorter* than that of traditional open neck or back surgery.

For patients with spondylolisthesis, our surgeons may recommend a minimally invasive stabilization procedure. The most common cause of spondylolisthesis is a damaged disc; if a disc in the spine is damaged beyond repair, it is no longer able to support the surrounding vertebrae. This can cause the vertebra above the damaged disc to move out of alignment and fall over the vertebra below it. Therefore, our minimally invasive stabilization procedure would simply remove the damaged disc and replace it with an artificial disc, and sometimes bone grafts, to realign and offer support to the spine.

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of spondylolisthesis and have tried physical therapy and other methods with no success, contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn how we can help you find relief from neck or back pain.