Understanding Spondylolisthesis

What is Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a degenerative spine condition that can cause severe pain and stiffness in the neck or back. If you have been experiencing pain and difficulty standing or walking for an extended period of time, or if bending over is becoming increasingly impossible, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine if spondylolisthesis is to blame for your pain. 

Although a diagnosis of a degenerative spine condition may be daunting, it is a common condition. Penn Medicine reports that 5-7% of the population has spondylolisthesis, but many don’t experience symptoms. 

If left untreated, this degenerative spine condition could continue to worsen and may lead to a significant decline in your quality of life. Continue reading to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options of this debilitating condition. 

Spondylolisthesis Causes

Spondylolisthesis is a term that describes vertebral slippage in any direction. A spondylolisthesis diagnosis is characterized by the displacement of one vertebra over another or below it. Spondylolisthesis occurs most frequently within the lumbar region of the spine. This is due to the fact that this area undergoes a great deal of pressure caused by the movements associated with lifting heavy objects and twisting the torso. 

The lumbar region also bears most of the weight of the upper body. Gymnasts, weightlifters, football players, and other athletes are especially susceptible to spondylolisthesis because of the tremendous amount of stress they place on their lower backs. But, even though this degenerative spine condition is seen frequently in athletes, spondylolisthesis can also be present at birth. It can also be an effect of aging or a result of an injury or trauma to the spine. 

Spondylolisthesis Symptoms and Diagnosis

If you have this condition, you may experience spondylolisthesis symptoms such as axial spine in the neck and lower back, along with nerve pain in the arms, hand, legs, and feet. Grades classify this condition and determine the necessary form of treatment. For example, a grade 1 spondylolisthesis diagnosis signifies the least amount of slippage, and grade 5 represents 100% slippage. 

The less slippage there is, the less likely that the spondylolisthesis symptoms will become debilitating. However, even a minor displacement of a vertebra can cause nerve compression and chronic pain. 

Spondylolisthesis symptoms might be experienced at the actual site of the condition or they can develop in an unrelated area of the body. Pain and stiffness are most common at the site of the vertebral slippage, but if a displaced vertebra makes contact with or compresses a nearby nerve root, a set of neurological symptoms known as radiculopathy could be produced. 

Radiculopathy is characterized by radiating pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness or loss of function in the group of muscles that are impacted by the compressed nerve root. The areas affected by nerve compression symptoms will depend on the location of the vertebral slippage. 

Vertebral displacement in the lower back cause symptoms in the buttocks, legs, feet, and toes. Spondylolisthesis is the upper region of the spine, however, can affect the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. Regardless of its location, the condition can also lead to spinal cord compression, which could result in myelopathy. As a result, severe loss of muscular function or even paralysis in the lower body can occur. 

Spondylolisthesis Treatment

Spondylolisthesis treatment varies. To recommend a spondylolisthesis treatment plan,  your doctor will assess the severity of your condition and the symptoms it is causing, as well as your overall health and medical history. 

The slippage that coincides with spondylolisthesis can result in stress on tissues and impact the delicate neural structures. Treatment methods for this condition include:

  • Medications
  • Epidural spinal injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Alternative care

Most patients use these therapies for several months. Testing various combinations of conservative spondylolisthesis treatments to find an effective routine. This can take a bit of trial and error. Although, you should be able to develop a spondylolisthesis management plan with the assistance of your doctor. 

However, if conservative spondylolisthesis treatments do not produce the desired results, your doctor may eventually recommend seeing if you are a candidate for surgery to help you obtain more meaningful symptom relief, such as the minimally invasive procedures at BEST Health System. 

Spondylolisthesis Surgery

If surgery becomes a consideration, you may have several options to explore. Traditional open back surgery may be a treatment option for nerve compression. Although, minimally invasive spine surgery may offer more benefits, such as a shorter recovery, lower complications, and lower infection rates. 

At BEST Health System, our board-certified surgeons perform several minimally invasive decompression spine surgeries that may be effective for patients with spondylolisthesis and other degenerative spine conditions. For instance, a patient may consider the following surgery to treat nerve compression in the spine:

BEST Health System Can Help

If you want to learn more about BEST Health System and the procedures we offer, contact our team today. We ensure all patients receive the most effective, least invasive treatment option. The BEST is yet to come.