What is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition where the vertebra slips forward in relation to the below vertebra (slips out of position). That might be the cause of the back pain (lower back or mid to upper back). In most cases it is associated with pressure on the spinal cord causing spinal stenosis or direct pressure on the nerves. In some cases, surgical treatment may not be necessary as correct exercise techniques can help you avoid this condition.

What causes Spondylolisthesis?

Causes of spondylolisthesis can vary depending on age, lifestyle and genetics.

Teenager’s rapid growth may also be a cause of spondylolisthesis.

Strength exercises such as weight lifting, heavy gardening, gymnastics and other heavy and physical sports may put stress on your lower back and cause this condition.

Other causes can be a birth defect, degeneration due to age or overuse and tumors.

Spondylolysis is usually the early stage of spondylolisthesis. Spondylolysis occurs when there is a small crack or fracture between the two vertebrae which causes back pain. This is treatable, usually without surgery when taking medication and physical therapy at early stage.

What are the symptoms of Spondylolisthesis?

You may not experience any symptoms if you have a mild case of Spondylolisthesis. With severe cases, you may not be able to perform your normal daily activities. Some of these symptoms are:

    • Lower back pain and tenderness.
    • Back and leg stiffness.
    • Sciatica (pain radiating down one or both legs). This is where the bone in the spine presses on a nerve.
    • Tight hamstring.

You should consult a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.

How is Spondylolisthesis diagnosed?

Physical examination is the first step. X-rays of your lower spine while standing and sitting down will show if the vertebra is out of position, the severity of the slipped vertebra and the impact on surrounding bones. You may also need to have a detailed MRI scan to confirm this condition if it is showing the out of position bone is pressing on the nerve).

What are the treatments for Spondylolisthesis?

Treatment for spondylolisthesis depends on the severity of pain and vertebra slippage. Nonsurgical treatments can help ease the pain and encourage the bone to go back into place. It’s important to avoid contact sports during the healing process.

The following are some common nonsurgical treatment methods:

    • Physical therapy exercises.
    • Anti-inflammatory tablets such as ibuprofen to reduce pain.
    • Epidural steroid injections.

When your spine does not respond to nonsurgical treatment, surgical correction of the misplaced vertebra is required and also when the bones of your spine are pressing on the nerves.

Adults having severe case of spondylolisthesis may need to have a surgery called a spinal fusion. The success rate of the surgery is very high.

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