How spondylolisthesis can cause sciatica

Spondylolisthesis can cause sciatica by putting pressure on the sciatic nerve that originates in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine. The condition of spondylolisthesis can develop when a spinal vertebra becomes displaced and slips forward over the vertebra immediately below it. As the vertebra moves out of alignment, it can narrow the pathways in the spinal column where the spinal cord and nerve roots reside. If the slipped vertebra compress the sciatic nerve root, it can lead to sciatica. Sciatica describes a group of symptoms that includes pain, tingling, numbness and weakness that travel down the lower spine along the sciatic nerve, through the buttocks and the back of one or both legs.

When spondylolisthesis causes sciatica, the condition most often occurs at the L5 nerve root, which is located near the last vertebra in the lumbar spine. The lumbar (lower) region of the spine bears most of the weight of the upper body and normally endures a great deal of stress from lifting and twisting. Frequently experienced by athletes —particularly football players, hockey players, weightlifters and gymnasts — spondylolisthesis can also be hereditary or arise from spinal trauma or the natural aging process.

Treatment options for sciatica relief

After receiving diagnosis from your doctor, you may be prescribed a range of treatment options based on the severity of your spondylolisthesis and related sciatica symptoms. In many cases, initial treatment will consist of a course of treatment including pain medication, hot and cold compression, low-impact exercise and physical therapy. The goal of an exercise program is to strengthen the lower spine so that it will remain stable in a flexed position. To accomplish this, a combination of two general types of exercises is usually recommended:

By following this approach, the majority of patients find lasting relief without the need to undergo surgery.

When to consider surgery

If your pain persists or worsens after fully attempting nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery to treat your spondylolisthesis and sciatica. Before consenting to a highly invasive traditional open back surgery, reach out to the caring and dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery on an outpatient basis which offers less risk of complication compared to traditional open neck or back procedures.

To learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery to treat spondylolisthesis and sciatica, please contact one of our Patient Empowerment Consultants today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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