Spondylolisthesis (spon-deh-lo-lis-THEE-sis) typically occurs in the lower back when one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it.
Many cases of spondylolisthesis stem from arthritis associated with aging. The condition can be treated with nonsurgical techniques, but sometimes surgery is required.
The lower back, or lumbar spine, starts at your lowest rib and reaches to the top of your pelvis. There are five vertebrae bones surrounding the spinal cord, with spongy, doughnut-shaped discs serving as cushions between the bones.
The spine naturally curves inward in the lumbar area. This curve, the lordosis, helps with balance and spreading the weight of your upper body over your legs and feet.
A mild case of spondylolisthesis may have no symptoms, but severe cases can restrict daily activities.
Common spondylolisthesis symptoms include:
- Back and leg stiffness
- Chronic lower back pain
- Tenderness in the lower back
- Tight hamstring and buttock muscles
- Thigh pain
Some children are born with spondylolisthesis, and people of all ages are susceptible to developing the condition if it runs in the family. Some sports, such as football, gymnastics and weightlifting, can put strain on the lower back and cause spondylolisthesis.
The first approach to treating spondylolisthesis is using nonsurgical therapy to ease pain and help the bone move back into place.
Nonsurgical treatments may include:
- Cold/heat therapy
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy
- Mental health therapy to help you cope with your condition
- Injections to reduce swelling around a nerve
Surgery is considered for patients who have not gotten relief or whose symptoms have worsened. Surgical options include:
- Surgical removal of the cause of your spondylolisthesis can ease pressure on the nerves and help relieve pain. Minimally invasive surgery is often an option for this procedure.
- Surgical fusion to stabilize the spine, which can be performed as a minimally invasive procedure, also can reduce pain and restore function.