Case report: the effects of massage therapy on lumbar spondylolisthesis

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2012 Jan;16(1):115-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2011.04.003. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


Objective: This study seeks to find out the impact of massage techniques, including myofascial and muscle energy techniques, on the symptoms of pain, muscular hypertonicity, and structural misalignment associated with isthmic lumbar spondylolisthesis.

Methods: A 30-year-old female was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis at age 12, has chronic mild to moderate back pain during prolonged walking/standing, hyperlordosis and anterior rotation of the pelvis. A 7-session treatment series of muscle energy techniques, and a type of myofascial bodywork known as active myofascial technique, was carried out, measuring rotational changes of the ilia, and the length of standing/walking time before low back pain onset.

Results: The onset of low back pain was delayed during walking/standing over the course of treatment, hyperlordosis decreased, and hypertonicity of iliopsoas and quadrates lumborum muscles decreased. Bilateral net reduction of illial rotation was achieved, but with irregular changes.

Conclusion: Due to inconsistent and unreliable data, results were not conclusive. However, this study brings into question the role of hip flexor and spinal extensor muscles in normalizing postural misalignment associated with spondylolisthesis. It also highlights the importance of precise and detailed measures in massage research, as well the function of body awareness in this condition. Future research is needed to support the efficacy of massage therapy as a conservative strategy for lumbar isthmic spondylolisthesis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fascia / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae*
  • Massage / methods*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Posture / physiology
  • Spondylolisthesis / physiopathology
  • Spondylolisthesis / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome