Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips anteriorly or laterally over the vertebra beneath it. While the most common site of this condition is the lumbar (lower back) region, it can occur in any area of the spine. It can be caused by congenital defects or continued overexertion, but the aging process also takes its toll. Degenerative spondylolisthesis – this is often referred to as Type III spondylolisthesis – in people over the age of 50 is not uncommon. As bones weaken and lose density, intervertebral discs also lose water content, elasticity, and height, which means that the proper alignment of the spinal anatomy becomes more difficult to maintain.
Stages of Spondylolisthesis
Doctors generally divide the stages of spondylolisthesis, or disc slippage, into “grades,” where a Grade 1 indicates 25 percent slippage and Grade 5 indicates 100 percent slippage. While many individuals may not even realize they have this condition, severe cases will cause painful neural compression and abnormal spine curvature. Mild cases can be treated with pain medication, rest, back braces, or massage. Minimally invasive decompression procedures have proven effective for non-progressive Grades 1 and 2, while some doctors recommend fusion surgery for Grades 3-5.
In the case of Type III degenerative spondylolisthesis, any surgery that dramatically realigns the spine after what could have been years and years of gradual shifting may do more harm than good. Subsequent problems could include an increased risk of fracture, immobility, or the development of problems in other areas of the spine. Talk to your physician about treatment options and ask for information regarding minimally invasive decompression procedures. The experts at Laser Spine Institute specialize in outpatient, laser-assisted procedures that utilize the latest advances in endoscopic technology. If you suffer from neural compression due to spondylolisthesis, contact us today. We would be happy to review your MRI or CT scan, completely free of charge.