June 17, 2024


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Ab Exercises For Spondylolisthesis

Chosing the right kind of ab exercises for spondylolisthesis is a vital part to a proper recovery. A large number of people diagnosed with spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis are instructed to strengthen their core. The immediate reaction is to rush home and perform thousands of sit ups. But this approach could lead to additional harm to the spine.

Why Crunches Are Hard On Your Spine

The June 9th, 2009 issue of Newsweek published an article titled, “Stop doing sit ups: Why crunches don’t work.” This article referred to the findings of Stuart McGill, a professor of spine bio mechanics. Dr. McGill’s studies found that the excessive and repetitive bending and flexing motion of the spine can lead to disc bulges and even herniation. Dr. McGill’s study reveled that a full crunch can put as much as 730 lbs of compression on the spine!

Since these studies have been released, the use of crunches has been reduced by several therapists, strength coaches and doctors. The debate is a hot topic in the field of fitness as the back is one of the most often injured areas on the body.

Not Good For Spondylolisthesis and Spondylolysis

It is one thing if someone has a perfectly healthy spine and they do crunches, but for those who suffer from spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis, crunches should be eliminated from their ab exercises to avoid the stress mentioned above. Doing crunches is only throwing fuel on the already burning fire.

The bending movement performed while doing crunches is a position that most spondylolisthesis patients are in daily. Picture the halfway point of a sit up, it is almost identical to a seated position. The flexed hips and rounded back can cause those who suffer from spondylolisthesis additional pain due to the muscles it is affecting.

It is important to combat these positions instead of mimicking them to avoid pain and discomfort.

Less Stressful Ab Exercises

If crunches are not safe, what should be done to strengthen the core?

The answer is to maintain a neutral spine during ab exercises, especially when beginning exercise following diagnoses. A neutral spine is exactly what it sounds like. A nice straight and controlled spine.

Most of the time those who suffer from spondylolisthesis have poor control and strength in the muscles that help to protect and move the spine. When performing multi joint movements these support groups do a poor job and the back takes over. The back isn’t conditioned to do these movements and eventually pain sets in.

The goal is to start easy and build up the strength in the supporting areas of the spine. Muscles in your hips, core, and glutes should be targeted.

A very common neutral spine ab exercise is planks, or hovers. Planks are performed by laying on the ground with the elbows directly under the shoulders. The elbows are bent in a 90 degree angle. A bridge is then performed with the entire body being lifted off the ground with the elbows and toes remaining in contact with the ground. The shoulders, hips, and legs should be in a straight line and most importantly, the back is straight. The abdominal muscles are drawn in for support. Start with holding for 15 seconds and progress to 45 seconds to build some much-needed strength.

Planks are just one example of many spondylolisthesis ab exercises that are safe on the spine. Most importantly avoid exercises that cause additional pain.