Can spondylolisthesis be caused by a car accident?

Spondylolisthesis is a relatively common condition in which one spinal vertebra slips forward, partially protruding over the vertebra below it. This can occur in response to gradual spinal degeneration or result from trauma to the spine, such as a sudden “jolt” sustained in a car accident.

How can a car accident cause spondylolisthesis?

When you’re in a car that is traveling at a high speed, coming to an abrupt stop can cause your spine to jerk from front to back. This can cause a vertebra to slip out of place. You might experience pain right away, or you might not feel any major discomfort for a little while. This will depend on the other injuries you sustain (e.g., whiplash), if any, and whether your slipped vertebra is pressing against any nerves or nerve roots.

Spondylolisthesis treatment options

You should meet with a physician shortly after any traumatic accident. He or she can assess your situation and help you decide on the most appropriate action plan.

When it comes to spondylolisthesis treatment, the most common options include medications, physical therapy, epidural spinal injections and rest. You’ll likely be advised to focus exclusively on these treatments for the first few weeks following a car accident. If appropriate, your physician might also recommend a few lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking. These changes can help with the healing process.

Depending on the severity of your spondylolisthesis— a vertebra can slip only a tiny bit, or it can slip entirely off the vertebra below it — you may or may not need surgery. Complete slippage (grade 5 spondylolisthesis) requires emergency surgery, but it is extremely rare. It’s more likely that you’ll have a less severe diagnosis (grade 1, 2, 3 or 4 spondylolisthesis) and be able to reserve surgery as a “last resort” if nonsurgical therapies don’t produce your desired results.

While you may not need surgery to treat your spondylolisthesis, several options are available if you do decide to have an operation. One option may be minimally invasive spondylolisthesis surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are safer and effective alternatives to open neck and back operations.^ To learn more, contact us today. We can review* your MRI for free to help you find out if you’re a candidate for our outpatient treatment options.