What is spondylolisthesis?
This condition occurs when two vertebrae slip or slide over one another to produce the abnormal positioning of two or more vertebrae in relation to each other along the spinal column.
Spondylolisthesis is categorized into different types, each of which has five grades of severity.
What causes spondylolisthesis?
This condition can be congenital, (caused by a birth defect); degenerative (related to aging), Isthmic, (having a spondyloltic defect); traumatic (most commonly fractures); or pathologic (in this case, a disease of the bone).
Regardless of the cause, there is a good chance the condition will get worse if you do nothing. One underlying factor in spondylolisthesis is having your core muscles out of balance with each other. Those imbalances can cause what are called “pelvic dysfunctions.” Unless these dysfunctions are addressed, it will be hard for you to find relief. Even worse, these pelvic dysfunctions will put abnormal pressure in the spine and prevent the spine from stabilizing.
What are the symptoms of spondylolisthesis?
The severity and the type of symptoms associated with spondylolisthesis depend on the grade of the condition. Grades range from low to high (1 to 5), with each grade representing the percentage of vertebrae slippage. For example, Grade 1 indicates slippage of less than 25 percent, while Grade 5 represents 100 percent slippage—where the top vertebra completely falls off the supporting bone below it.
Common complaints range from local pain to radiating pain. You may experience leg pain or pain in the buttock, or you may feel a more generalized numbness, tingling, or weakness. It all depends on the amount of contact with the nerves.
An inability to control urine or stool, or to initiate a urine stream, could indicate that the slippage may be pushing on the spinal cord itself. This would be considered a medical emergency, so anyone with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
What are the most common spondylolisthesis treatments?
Cortisone injections straight into the joint, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), hot packs, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic exercises are commonly employed.
If deemed necessary, a surgical procedure can eliminate any contact a vertebra has with a nerve and stabilize the vertebrae to prevent further slippage.
Which spondylolisthesis treatments work best?
Once the slippage has happened or you have been diagnosed with a progressive form of this condition, it is recommended that you seek professional help from a qualified expert in spondylolisthesis who can initiate the most comprehensive and conservative approach possible.
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Updated: May 12,2011