Spondylolisthesis treatment options are prescribed as a means to alleviate pain and other symptoms in the short term, while giving the body a chance to adjust to the slipping of a vertebra over the long term. Spondylolisthesis can cause a variety of symptoms, including localized pain, spasms, stiffness, and swelling, as well as radiating pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the extremities. Symptoms that occur somewhere other than the actual location of the slipped vertebra are typically caused by nerve compression.
Conservative Spondylolisthesis Treatment Options
The spondylolisthesis treatment options suggested by a doctor will depend on several factors, including the overall health of the patient and the severity of the vertebral slippage. Spondylolisthesis – which almost always occurs in the lower back – is graded on a scale:
- Grade 1 – The vertebra has slipped up to 25 percent out of place
- Grade 2 – 26-50 percent slippage
- Grade 3 – 51-75 percent slippage
- Grade 4 – 76-100 percent displaced
- Grade 5 – The vertebral body has fallen off the edge of the vertebral body below it
Even in cases of Grade 1 vertebral slippage, it’s possible for a displaced vertebra to impinge upon, or pinch, a nerve root or the spinal cord, leading to sometimes severe pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. When this occurs, a doctor may recommend a course of conservative (nonsurgical) treatment options, including:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Analgesic medication for pain
- Stretching exercises to improve flexibility and relieve pressure on pinched nerves
- Weightlifting to build strength
- Walking and other low-impact exercises to improve circulation and range of motion
In addition, a doctor might suggest corticosteroid injections to reduce swelling around a compressed nerve. Some patients also have met success using chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, and other complementary and alternative methods.
When to Consider Surgery
In cases of low-grade vertebral slippage, surgical spondylolisthesis treatment options to relieve nerve compression usually are considered the last resort. If a doctor suggests that surgery might be your best chance to manage your symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute to find out whether you are a candidate for a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed with endoscopic techniques. One of our orthopedic experts will conduct a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.