Spondylolisthesis is medically defined as a forward displacement of one vertebra over another, which essentially causes a “pinched nerve” or significant pain. The slippage frequently occurs within the lumbar spine region, more specifically in the fifth lumbar vertebra on the sacrum – mainly because this region is subjected to the highest amount of stress and pressure. This is true as heavy lifting, twisting and associated mobility constantly applies pressure into this area.
This spinal condition can occur to anyone at any age, but it is most frequent in athletes (gymnasts, football players, wrestlers, mixed martial artists, and other athletes). Spondylolisthesis can also be present at birth due to a congenital defect, such as Spina Bifida.
This condition is commonly confused with Spondylolysis. Although they appear similar in name, Spondylolysis is the deterioration of the winged-shaped rings located on the lumbar vertebra. These rings provide proper alignment for the spine, and when these rings deteriorate, it allows slippage to take place. In other words, it is a vertebrae ring defect that essentially causes Spondylolisthesis.
Causes of Spondylolisthesis
As mentioned earlier, this condition may be hereditary or present at birth due to a birth defect. For older adults, the most common cause of spondylolisthesis is a wear and tear of the back (degenerative disc disease) or a disease such as arthritis that forces the discs to slip out of place. Adolescents may obtain this condition due to sports or activities that continuously overexert their lower back.
The list below dictates other causes of Spondylolisthesis:
- Trauma or injury that damages the joint or discs within the lumbar vertebra
- Overexertion of the vertebra – also known as stress fracture
- Age progression that accelerates the degeneration of the lumbar vertebra
- Mild to severe lower back pain
- Associated muscle tightness, stiffness and tenderness in one or both legs
- Radiating pain down into the thighs, buttocks, and legs that may be aggravated by bending or twisting
- Difficulty walking due to pain
Treatments for Spondylolisthesis
For athletes, your doctor or spinal specialist may recommend rest and limitations of sports activities to avoid aggravating the symptoms that originate from the slippage of the lumber vertebra. However, if this condition is present at birth, then bracing and surgery may be implemented.
Treatment for Spondylolisthesis is similar to treatment for other non-severe spinal conditions. Minimally Invasive and non-surgical options are deemed as the staple treatment that will be provided initially to all patients with this condition. Physical Therapy and medication are also recommended for patients suffering from Spondylolisthesis. Acupuncture may also be recommended to control the pain and other accompanying symptoms.
For severe and disabling cases, surgery may be considered – such as a lumbar laminectomy or spinal fusion. Surgery may also be considered if minimally invasive and non-surgical options, along with other therapeutic treatment have failed to improve the patients’ symptoms. Be sure to contact your doctor for further information, including the risks and benefits of surgical treatment.