Spondylolisthesis Causes and Treatment Options
Spondylolisthesis is a degenerative condition of the spine in which one
vertebral disk slips over the one directly below it, causing a misalignment. It is a
condition most commonly found in the lumbar spine, due to the wear and tear that this part of
the spine is subject to from having to bear most of the weight of the upper body. As it is
the most flexible part of the spine, with the greatest range of motion, it is more prone to
damage. Symptoms can be practically nonexistent or may show up as severe lower back and/or
leg pain. Other symptoms include pain in the buttocks, tightness or weakness in the
hamstrings and sciatic pain that radiates down the back of the legs.
There are a number of different forms of spondylolisthesis, each having a
different cause. Activities that put greater amounts of pressure on the lower back due to
repetitive stress or hyperextension are more likely to cause isthmic
spondylolisthesis, a condition most commonly found in those who use their lower back a
great deal, such as gymnasts, football players and movers. Traumatic spondylolisthesis
may be caused by fractures of the spine due to direct trauma from something such as a car
accident. Aging adds to the risk of developing degenerative spondylolisthesis, as the
bones and their supporting structures lose fluid and elasticity as part of the normal aging
process, making the spine less resilient and more easily damaged. Less common causes of
spondylolisthesis are tumors (pathologic spondylolisthesis, which weakens the bones,
causing them to slip more easily), birth defects (dysplastic spondylolisthesis) and
There are a wide range of treatments for spondylolisthesis, depending on the
severity of the condition and how much pain it is causing. Your doctor or chiropractor can
recommend an appropriate course of treatment, which may include any of the
Rest – Taking a break
from the activities that led to the condition is usually the first step toward recovery. The
application of ice and/or heat is sometimes also recommended.
Pain medication –
Acetaminopen, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or oral steroids may be suggested to help decrease
inflammation and reduce pain.
– Exercises that involve strengthening the abdominal muscles and the muscles that support the spine
can be useful in taking pressure off the lower back, and stretching the hamstrings can help
alleviate the tightness and pain in the lower back caused by spondylolisthesis.
– A chiropractor can use spinal adjustments to realign the spine above and below the
spondylolisthesis, which may be contributing to the condition, and adjust associated joints that
may have become misaligned. Chiropractic care is a holistic, non-invasive form of treatment that
has been shown to be effective in the treatment of spondylolisthesis.
Surgery – In severe cases
of spondylolisthesis, spinal fusion surgery may be necessary if pain has not been alleviated after
six months using other forms of treatment.
If you think you may have spondylolisthesis, contact your physician or
chiropractor as soon as possible so as to avoid the condition becoming any worse. With some
appropriate therapeutic treatments, in time, you can once again be pain-free and resume your