My Doctor Told Me I Have Lumbar Spondylolisthesis

Now that you've seen your doctor and you've had the images performed and your diagnosis is lumbar spondylolisthesis, yes that's a mouthful.

What is lumbar spondylolisthesis? 

Well, watch this video to learn more and what you can do about it. So what are the signs and symptoms and what causes lumbar spondylolisthesis? Well by the end of this video you'll have a much better understanding of what it is and what you can do about it to help it.

My name is Stephen Dunn, I'm a holistic physical therapist and I've been treating patients and helping patients with this condition since 1998. I look forward to helping you with your condition as well.

So what are the symptoms of lumbar spondylolisthesis? 

The most commonly reported symptoms that I see are pain with walking, the pain was standing still for extended periods of time, which is then relieved with sitting. 

Pain after getting out of a car when driving for an extended period of time, reaching overhead and those are just some of the many complaints that we hear about with lumbar spondylolisthesis.

Now how do you know if you have it? 

Well, most of you have already gone through this process and you've seen your doctor. You've had some imaging done and maybe you've seen a specialist along the way.  

An x-ray is the best way to determine if you have lumbar spondylolisthesis and it's typically going to show up at lumbar 4 - 5 which we call L4 - 5 or L5 - S1. Lumbar 5 - Sacrum 1. Let me show you that here and what that means and what that is. We have Fred here behind me and L4 and L5 are the lower two vertebrae sitting on top of the sacrum.

Now, what lumbar spondylolisthesis means where we have the sacrum here and the lumbar spine sitting here, right on top of it, that the lumbar spine sitting on top of the sacrum, L5 or maybe it's L4 on L5, is slipping forward. 

So instead of being stacked up here where it should be, it actually slides forward and as it slides forward it creates pinching of the nerves, it creates all kinds of havoc.

Now I'm going to show you what it would look like with some disc in there. Now, this is showing a herniated or bulging disc, and then here would be where the lumbar 5 would be. So just kind of showing you a representation of what it would be.

The sacrum... boom... lumbar 5 with the disc on top and below and so when that L5 shifts forward on the sacrum it's going to shear on the disc. This is going to lead to problems where these nerves are coming out of the spine in that area.

So, that is what lumbar spondylolisthesis is. It's a shearing of one of the vertebrae forward. It's created typically by a fracture or instability in the lumbar spine in the back in one of the little segments, right back here. So that's what it is.

Now, what about the treatment options? 

The main goal is to create stability with lumbar and core strengthening.  One of the main things you can do with it is learning to keep your pelvis and your spine in a better position. That's where awareness exercises and the things that we teach in our pilates programs and our physical therapy programs can make long-term effects on that.

Many people… as soon as they see spondylolisthesis they're told they need to go have surgery. I disagree with that and I think it can be managed conservatively with awareness exercises... releasing what's tight and causing some of the imbalances and then strengthening what's weak and not allowing you to have the proper stability.

Now if you can go to amazon and download my book "Retrain the Brain to Solve Back Pain"... It goes through a comprehensive program on how to work with repositioning the spine and awareness exercises to create the proper changes in your posture to improve your lumbar spondylolisthesis. 

The book can be downloaded at

Thanks for watching guys. That's all for today and if you're in Austin, Texas or Westlake Hills then give us a call at 512-215-4227... We'd love to see you and help you with your lumbar spondylolisthesis. Thanks guys and have a great day.

Co-Owner / Physical Therapist at CORE Therapy and Pilates
Stephen graduated with a Masters in Physical Therapy in 1998 from LSUMC in New Orleans and is a licensed physical therapist in Texas since 2004. Immediately interested in hands-on therapy, he began to study with Brian Mulligan and became certified in the Maitland Australian Approach in 2003. Stephen has since studied the fascial system through John F Barnes Myofascial Release. Stephen completed a comprehensive Pilates training in 2002 and the GYROTONIC Expansion System® in 2009. The combined treatment of manual therapy with mind-body awareness exercises using Pilates and Gyrotonic concepts was the start of his whole-body treatment approach.
Stephen Dunn