How to treat spondylolisthesis

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. Spondylolisthesis is sometimes referred to as an “anterior displacement” of a vertebra. Although the displacement can occur in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back) or lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine, it is most common in the lower back.

How spondylolisthesis is graded

A physician can make a proper diagnosis of spondylolisthesis through an exploration of your 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 through minimally invasive spine surgery.

Explore all of your surgical options

As previously mentioned, conservative treatment methods are considered practical 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.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive decompression, and in severe cases, stabilization procedures for spondylolisthesis and other neck and back conditions. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery, such as smaller incisions and faster recovery times.^ Contact us today for a review of your MRI report or CT scan and to learn more about how our treatment for spondylolisthesis can help you.