How to Treat Spondylolisthesis

By Michael Perry M.D.

Treat Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis, or vertebral slippage, is sometimes referred to as an “anterior displacement” of a vertebra. Although the displacement can occur in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) or lumbar (lower) regions of the spine, it is most common in the lower back. The word spondylolisthesis (pronounced spon-dee-low-lis-thee-sis) comes from the Greek words spondylos, which means “spine,” and listhesis, meaning “slide.” As the root words imply, the condition spondylolisthesis describes a spinal defect in which one vertebra slides over the vertebra below it.

How spondylolisthesis is graded

Proper diagnosis of spondylolisthesis can only be made by a physician through an exploration of a patient’s medical history and a physical examination. In most cases, an MRI or CT scan will be arranged in order to determine the exact location of the vertebral slippage. This medical imagery is also used to determine the degree of slippage, which can range on a scale from 1 to 5. Grade 1 means the vertebra has slipped up to 25 percent off its normal base. Grade 5 means it has completely slipped over the vertebra beneath it. In general, anything worse than Grade 2 slippage can only be treated surgically. While Grade 1 and 2 can cause significant pain mainly due to the impingement of nerve roots or the spinal cord, these grades of spondylolisthesis may be initially treated conservatively, or by using minimally invasive, outpatient surgical procedures.

Explore all of your surgical options

As previously mentioned, conservative treatment methods are considered prudent for most cases of lower-grade spondylolisthesis. Common conservative treatments for lower-grade spondylolisthesis are aimed at symptom suppression, not elimination of the condition itself, and may include back bracing, pain medication, low-impact exercise, stretching and physical therapy. If your spondylolisthesis is severe, your physician may suggest surgery. It will be important for you to consider all of your options before committing to any type of surgery.

Laser Spine Institute offers the latest in minimally invasive procedures for spondylolisthesis and other neck and back conditions. Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan and to learn more about how our treatment for spondylolisthesis may help you.