Spondylolisthesis FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions regarding spondylolisthesis in a convenient list to give you a general idea about the condition and its treatment.

Q. What is spondylolisthesis?

A. Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra slips out of alignment in relation to the surrounding vertebrae. The progression of the condition is quantified on scale from grade 1 to grade 5.

*Q. What causes spondylolisthesis? *

A. Degenerative spondylolisthesis, which occurs in older adults, is the result of aging. As the body ages, the intervertebral discs can deteriorate and the vertebral joints can be affected by osteoarthritis. These changes undermine the biological structures that stabilize the vertebrae. In the case of isthmic spondylolisthesis, which typically occurs in children but usually remains unnoticed until adulthood, the root causes are generally stress fractures.

Many factors can contribute to these causes and potentially speed the onset of the condition, including obesity, smoking, high-impact sports, poor posture for an extended period of time and many others.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. The symptoms vary depending on the type of spondylolisthesis. Chronic back aches characterize degenerative spondylolisthesis, while isthmic spondylolisthesis is generally accompanied by acute pain, particularly during high-impact exercise. This pain can also manifest anytime the spine is hyperextended (bent backwards) during activities like power lifting, gymnastics and performing certain stretches.

Q. What are some treatment options?

A. Physicians recommend different treatments for spondylolisthesis, depending on the stage of the disease. For most patients who have minor slippage, symptoms often improve with physical therapy, which includes performing specific stretches and strengthening the lower back muscles to better support the spine. Additionally, physicians may recommend that patients take over-the-counter or prescription pain medications to mitigate some of the symptoms or wear a back brace to prevent the spine from moving too far. Surgery is also an option in more severe cases, or cases where a displaced vertebrae is pressing on the spinal cord or a nerve root.

Q. Will I need surgery?

A. Surgery is generally the last resort for treating spondylolisthesis, and it’s reserved for patients who have particularly severe slippage or who don’t experience satisfactory symptom relief after weeks or months of conservative treatments.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive procedures as alternatives to traditional open spine surgery. Contact us today to learn more about our procedures and whether you’re a good candidate for them.