Spondylolisthesis and degeneration from aging

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when a vertebra slips over the one beneath it. While the most common area where this happens is in the lumbar (lower) spinal region, it can occur in any area of the spine. Root causes include birth defects or traumatic injury, but the natural aging process or stress fractures are more common.

If you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative spondylolisthesis, educating yourself about the causes and treatment options for your condition can be helpful. The following information can help you work more closely with your doctor so you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

The natural aging process and spondylolisthesis

Degenerative, or age-related, spondylolisthesis usually affects people over the age of 50 and can become even more common after age 65. While bones weaken and lose density, the spinal discs also lose water, elasticity and height, meaning proper alignment of the spine becomes more difficult to maintain.

Physicians divide the degree of vertebral slippage from spondylolisthesis into grades: Grade 1 would indicate a 25 percent slippage, while a grade 4 could mean as much as 100 percent slippage. While it is possible to not have symptoms from this condition, more severe cases will cause painful nerve compression and abnormal spine curvature. Once degenerative spondylolisthesis has been diagnosed and graded, it is important to partner with your doctor to develop a care plan that can offer the best chance of lasting relief and a return to a good quality of life.

Treatment options

Pain from lower-grade spondylolisthesis can often be effectively relieved with conservative treatments like pain medication, rest, back braces or massage. Surgery for spondylolisthesis may become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatments are not improving symptoms or stabilization is required in the form of a fusion procedure. Traditional open spine surgery for age-related spondylolisthesis involves a large incision, an overnight hospital stay and a long recovery period. Complications could include an increased risk of fracture, immobility or the development of problems in other areas of the spine.

If you are considering traditional open back surgery and are anxious about these risks, contact Laser Spine Institute. We specialize in minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that uses advanced medical technology to access the spine with a muscle-sparing approach. Our highly skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures that can treat a range of spondylolisthesis cases.

Reach out to us today for a no-cost review of your MRI report or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.