A few years ago, I woke up with a terrible pain in my low back. After a week of trying to let it heal on its own while feebly moving around and not being able to fold forward into spinal flexion, I decided it was time to go to the doctor for a medical opinion. An X-ray revealed a low grade spondylolisthesis between L4 & L5. “Spondy-what?” was my reply to the doctor; who then explained that one vertebral segment in my low back had slipped over the one below it.

Spondylolisthesis is caused by a problem with one or more of the small joints that allows one vetebral bone to move over the other is forced out of position. This shift may be caused by any of a number of problems with the small joints in your back. You could have:

  • A defective joint that you’ve had since birth (congenital).
  • A joint damaged by an accident or other trauma.
  • A vertebra with a stress fracture caused from overuse of the joint.
  • A joint damaged by an infection or arthritis.

Although the doctor was not able to tell me specifically how my spondylolisthesis occurred, whether it was congenital or caused by overuse or arthritis or a mixture of all the above, he did give me insight into what was happening in my spine. At first this news was frightening and frustrating, as I wasn’t sure that there was anyway to cure or prevent further damage to my spine without drugs or surgery. At some point after my back was feeling a bit better, I learned about my miraculous multifidi.

Simply being exposed to the knowledge of these muscles that protect my spine and aid in the continence of my pelvic floor helped me feel more optimistic about the recovery of my low back dysfunction.

Through my research, I found that stabilization exercises with individuals with lower back pain and spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis helped to reduce pain intensity in the long term. Now, it wasn’t just any exercise plan – it also included the specific training of deep abdominal muscles and the deep spinal stabilizers, the multifidi.

With the help of Yoga Tune Up® poses and a daily dose of therapy ball work, my low back and spine are stronger and more stable and are in fact, functioning better than they have in years. I now wake up to a body that feels MMMMM; rather than UGH! In order to utilize the power of your thoughts combined with the power of the pose to maintain the health of your entire spine; I encourage you to try the poses in the video below while the mind maintains focus on accessing the contractions of your multifidi.

 

Enjoyed this article? Read Coregeous Moves to Erase Back Pain

Tamara Cole

Tami walked into her first yoga class not expecting that she would leave with a whole new outlook on life. Yoga has become her life coach, guiding her on a path towards self-love and acceptance. She teaches yoga in the hope that it will do the same for others. Tami completed her first teacher training in 2010 and followed with a Power Yoga training in 2012. She has since finished her 200HR RYT with an emphasis in Ashtanga Yoga and has recently completed a year long apprenticeship with Cathy-Louise Broda for Mysore style teaching. Her continuing education consists of attending David Swenson's workshop and Primary Series TT and the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence. Outside of the studio she continues her studies of the Yoga Sutras, Upanishads and Bhakti's great mystic poets with Dr. Lamb at the University of Hawaii.

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Kathrin Ella Maghen

I wasn’t aware of these muscles and what you can do in order to reduce associated pain. I also had lower back issues that were resolved with core strengthening and rolling.

Audrey Snowdon

People don’t often talk about how to work the multifidi muscles so thank you for your post. I will try the sequence and continue rolling.

Monika Bansal

Thanks for sharing your story. I have just started to practice YTU poses and I’m so happy that it brings about positive results. I have bad shoulders from lot of chaturanga and planks and lifting weights. I hope too my issues are resolved with YTU exercises.

Noémie

WOW! Thank you for sharing your knowlegde with us. Looking foward to keep informing myself, so I can only get better at taking good care of my own body and the bodies I have in front of me during classes. This community inspires me so much!

Tracy Wagner

Thanks for sharing your article, It so nice to here such great results can happen with the proper movement exercises.

Tammy abresch

Wonderful article about the multitudes muscle and how easy it can be to strengthen given the proper tools. I hope to get the same results.

Kirsten

Thank you so much for sharing this article! Interesting and helpful for my students, but also for myself. Practicing yoga on a daily basis was not very good for my body. Due to the YTU TT I feel empowered to take really good care of myself and my students. Thanks again for inspiring!

Marja

There are so many culprits to low back pain (spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, degenerated disc, herniation, muscular weakness or tightness in proximal or even distal muscles, the list goes on), but you having had first hand experience with low back pain and what particular exercises aided your wellness makes you such a profound resource for those with similar experiences. Thank you for sharing, and, as low back health is of utmost importance (and so often not a person’s lived experience), this article and your insight are of such great value to your community – in person and at large!

Harriet

Tamara, thank you for sharing your story! It’s another shining example of how beautifully complex and connected the tissues of our bodies are. What was at first a confusing and painful experience turned into an opportunity to understand your anatomy on a deeper level. It’s so empowering to learn about the ways we can support ourselves from the inside out and learn how to heal with intentional movement. And now that you’re armed with the knowledge of yoga tune up and enhanced proprioceptive abilities, you can take practice preventative self care rather than waiting for the next catastrophe. Kudos!

Jess

This article was helpful insight into Spondylolisthesis. We just learned about this issue in our day three class today. It looks so painful and debilitating and I am glad to hear it can be helped with the YTU balls.

Tatjana Brandl

Isn’t it amazing how body works! And that your body is able to prevent and heal itself? YTU gives me so much knowledge and impressions to grow and give that further to my clients. Thank you Tami for your inspiring blog post.

Isabelle Côté

I am so inspired by the author and this article ! The health system give us so much possibilities and we have even more and more when we are curious and found by ourself others tools, techniques and people who learn us how to take care of ourself by ourself. So much powerful !

Robert Ouellet

Spondylolisthesis, multifidi, spondylolysis… I thought that sanskrit was strange and mystical langage. But when I listen my doctor when he explain my back problem I have the same impression. Normally he give me two way for fixing me and most of the time, those two way go together : drugs and surgery operation. And I will have to pay to all those fees with no guaranty of recovery my health, even if my big health insurance cannot guarantee my happiness with back. The author teach us with good exercises and with visualisation that we can take a charge of our… Read more »

Kathryn

It’s a good reminder to always be diligent about strengthening and stabilizing the spine in order to prevent and/or recover from injuries. The multifidi are easy to forget about and it’s important to both stretch and strengthen those deep spinal stabilizers.

Caroline Dillon

wow sounds like a condition more people should be aware of…a lot of people have a little pain and think its nothing and keep going until they cant walk or move also good to know some do it yourself heling tips lol thanks

Sophie Desmarais

Protecting the spine with strengthening exercises is extremely important for preventing or recovering from low back injuries, which are unfortunately far too common. Many Yoga Tune Up® poses and rolling are great for stabilization of the spine. Thanks for sharing!

Simona

Thank you Tami for this informative contribution. It is interesting to see that the Yoga Tune Up® poses combined with the therapy ball works for Spondylolisthesis too. Very helpful!

Dianne

Thanks Tami for the info on your source of low back pain and your journey to understand what helps relieve your symptoms. I am interested to know about the multifidis muscles by selecting the links you included in your article for further reading. I too am on a self-healing journey with low back pain.

Beth

Thank you for being the example of “Movement is Medicine” and what a creative and empowering way to share your story and help others heal. Learning about our anatomy can be helpful in healing our own bodies.

Stephanie

This is really encouraging for anyone suffering from spondylolisthesis or who have clients that do. Way to empower yourself!

Katy

Wow I’ve not heard that diagnosis before! It is very cool and smart you did your own healing w the YTU balls! Right on girl!!!??

Diana Germain

Lower back pain is so common and it is so empowering to have some exercises that can put people on the path to self-heal. I have postural issues I am working on and these exercises will surely help my back feel more at ease.

Willow

A lot of people give up when they are given frustrating news about their body. How empowering that you took your spine health into your own hands. This is such a simple exercise that will be easy to start adding into my routine everyday. What are some other exercises to target the multifidi strength?

Katy Loomis

Thank you for sharing! I was nervous the first time I worked with someone with spondylolisthesis but I have since realized there is nothing to be nervous about. Posts like this are great resources and a reminder how important those quiet multifidi muscles are!

Jennie

I think its great you took a diagnosis and worked with your body to heal from the inside, the more informed we are the better equipped we are to facilitate a health care routine to maximize our bodies ability to function optimally.

Kate

Hi Tami!

Thank you for highlighting Spondylolisthesis. While we may never know what causes certain issues (which limits our ability to prevent them!), we can definitely do our best in making our bodies more livable by focusing on what we do know and can do. The better our deeper core muscles, including the pelvic floor, function is definitely a good place to start. I’m curious about what other exercises you found helped.

Vivian Goldfield

I find that core exercised are very difficult for me due to stenosis in my lumbar spine, what modifications do you recommend for that?

Darcy Clifford

Thank you! This was incredibly helpful for me to understand what possibilities there are due to my lower back pain! I am currently doing my Yoga Certification and have definitely gotten a better idea what could be the cause of the pain I feel during spinal flexion. Would you recommend seeing a doctor and getting an x ray done if the pain appears every now and then? It does not always hurt but I do feel a lot of stress in my psoas major. I know so many people ignore these issues and are not in tune with their body… Read more »

Karen

Thanks Tami. Most people are scared when they hear “Spondylolisthesis” and remain clueless as to what it is and are afraid to do anything for their back. You’ve got a great explanation, you helped yourself, and I like the short video (easy to follow and do).

Deanna

Which yoga tune up dvd do you recommend for dealing with sciatica? My pain is usually in my upper glutius region. However, my psoas, inner thighs, hamstrings and calves maintain a tightness on that side. I have been to the doctor and had x-rays of my pelvis. My hip joints are clean and round. The doctor diagnosed me with sciatica and prescribed an anti-inflammatory for my sore tight muscles. I don’t want to be on an anti-inflammatory forever. So, I am working on my muscles (massage, stretching). I must mention I have been doing the yoga tune up hip dvd… Read more »

Sharon

Thank you! I am doing my YTU level 1 cert in Ottawa at the moment and after reading this I am reminded of the HOW bit of the context grid for spinal flexion and the list of muscles used etc. My own personal reconfiguration of my physical body needs to happen to correct postural issues from long ago injuries and this blog and your sharing of your own personal story has encouraged me to know that there is always a way to heal and feel better in my body! Thank you! Sharon =D