What is spondylolisthesis?



Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one bone of the spinal column (vertebra) slips forward over another. This is caused by a deformity or weakening in part of a vertebra.

This condition results in a misalignment of the vertebrae. In some instances, this may lead to spinal cord or nerve root compression, back pain, and numbness or weakness in the legs.

Certain types of athletes (particularly weight lifters, football players, gymnasts, and javelin throwers) are at increased risk for developing this defect.

A doctor diagnoses spondylolisthesis from a person's symptoms and the results of imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI.

Treatment usually includes a combination of bracing, exercises and stretching, and pain medicine. Sometimes surgery is also needed.

What are the symptoms of spondylolisthesis?

Symptoms of spondylolisthesis may include back or buttock pain and pain that runs from the lower back down one or both legs. You might have numbness or weakness in one or both legs. Sometimes spondylolisthesis causes no symptoms at all.

How is spondylolisthesis treated?

Treatment for spondylolisthesis begins with stopping any physical activity that may have led to vertebrae damage or that increases pain. For pain, your doctor may suggest taking NSAIDs. These include ibuprofen (such as Advil) or naproxen (such as Aleve). Or use acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain.

Doctors often suggest physical therapy to build up stomach and back muscles (core strengthening). Losing weight, if you need to, may also help.

Surgery may help if the pain is extreme, the bones continue to move, or you have nerve root or spinal cord damage from the condition. This takes pressure off the spinal cord or nerves (decompression). Or the bones may be fused in position. Sometimes both decompression and fusion are done during the same surgery.

After any of these surgeries, you may need to wear a cast or back brace for a while. Later, rehabilitation therapy will help make your muscles stronger and your movement easier.

How is spondylolisthesis diagnosed?

To check for spondylolisthesis, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do an exam. If your doctor suspects spondylolisthesis, they will probably do X-rays. You could also have a CT scan or an MRI done.

How can you care for yourself when you have spondylolisthesis?

There are things you can do to feel better. Stop any physical activity that may have led to vertebrae damage or that increases pain. Take any medicines as instructed. A physical therapist can show you exercises to strengthen stomach and back muscles. Wear a back brace if your doctor recommends it.

What causes spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis may be caused by problems with the small joints in your back. In children and teens, this can occur during sports. Adults can develop the condition because wear and tear on the back leads to stress fractures.

What is spondylolisthesis?

In spondylolisthesis, one bone in your back (vertebra) slides forward over the bone below it. It most often occurs in the lower spine. This may lead to your spinal cord or nerve roots being squeezed. This can cause back pain and numbness or weakness in one or both legs or no symptoms until years later.

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