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What is Spondylolisthesis?


Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition in which a vertebra, which is one of the bones in your spine, slips out of place, overlapping the vertebra below it. Though it can happen along any part of your spine, it most commonly happens in the lower back. For some, spondylolisthesis causes severe pain that also radiates to the leg.

If you’re suffering from pain related to spondylolisthesis, join the thousands of others who have found relief from back pain with Back Pain Centers of America. Call [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] so we can match you with a board-certified specialist who can help you get on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Are you suffering from Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis Causes and Risk Factors

There are different types of spondylolisthesis with different causes. The following explains each:

  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis – Natural degeneration of the spine as we age is one of the most common causes of spondylolisthesis. As we age, the discs between the vertebrae dry out and lose their ability to cushion the vertebrae properly.
  • Congenital spondylolisthesis – When abnormal formation of the bones in the spine is present at birth, the condition is diagnosed as congenital spondylolisthesis. The misalignment of the vertebrae increases the risk of the vertebrae slipping.
  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis – Isthmic spondylolisthesis, caused by a condition called spondylosis, causes small stress fractures in the spine, which can eventually weaken a vertebra enough to slip out of place.

Though less common, other spondylolisthesis causes include:

  • Injury to the spine, such as from a fall or car accident
  • Osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and could cause fractures
  • Cancer, either primary or secondary that involves the spine

The risk of developing spondylolisthesis is increased by:

  • A family history of spondylolisthesis
  • Certain sports and occupations that strain the lower back
  • Having spondylosis
  • A previous spinal injury

The rapid growth (growth spurt) that occurs during adolescence can also increase the risk of developing spondylolisthesis.

back pain patient

Spondylolisthesis Symptoms

Spondylolisthesis symptoms and their severity vary from person to person. Different types of spondylolisthesis and the part of the spine affected also play a role in the symptoms a person experiences.

Symptoms of spondylolisthesis may include:

  • Back pain or stiffness
  • Tight muscles in the hamstring
  • Tingling or numbness in the thighs and buttocks
  • Leg weakness or numbness

As the condition worsens, a person may experience worsening lordosis, which is commonly known as swayback. Severe cases of spondylolisthesis can cause kyphosis in some people—or round-back—as the upper spine slips off the lower spine.

Spondylolisthesis Treatment Options

Spondylolisthesis treatment depends on the severity of the condition and how far the vertebra has shifted out of place. In milder cases, conservative treatment may be enough. Conservative treatment for spondylolisthesis includes a combination of the following:

  • Avoiding certain sports and activities – You may be asked to avoid certain activities to protect your back.
  • Pain medication – Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications may provide relief of mild to moderate inflammation and pain. Prescription medication may be given if the pain is severe and not relieved by OTC medication.
  • Back brace – You may be given a back brace to wear to help support the spine and limit spine movement
  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist will teach you stabilization exercises to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles to help support the spine.
  • Steroid injections – Steroid medication injected into the spine can offer temporary relief of pain and inflammation.

Conservative treatment may not be enough in some cases. Surgery may be necessary if your pain is not relieved by nonsurgical treatment and your spondylolisthesis symptoms are interfering with your daily activities. Surgery is also necessary if the vertebra continues to slip, causing the condition to worsen.

Surgical spondylolisthesis treatment can relieve the pain caused by the irritated nerve, as well as stabilize your spine and improve your range of motion and ability to function and get back to your daily activities. Minimally-invasive surgical procedures can now be used in place of traditional open back surgery, which offers the same results with a quicker recovery.

If you’re tired of living with the pain and other symptoms of spondylolisthesis, help is just a quick phone call away. Take the next step toward relief and call us now [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to see whether you’re a candidate for one of our minimally-invasive spondylolisthesis treatments. This simple call to Back Pain Centers of America won’t cost you anything, and it could be the most important call you ever make.

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