Four questions to ask about your spondylolisthesis diagnosis

Spondylolisthesis can be a scary diagnosis, but understanding your condition and how to treat it can make it seem more manageable. That’s why it’s in your best interest to ask your physician any questions you may have, possibly even writing them down before your visit to ensure that you cover all your bases. Although your personal questions may vary, below are a few suggestions below to get you started, as well as explanations of why such questions are important.

Question No. 1: How severe is my spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis can range from a slight shift in the bones of the spine, causing barely perceptible symptoms, to a more intense slippage that can cause debilitating symptoms and spinal instability. Because spondylolisthesis treatment and its impact on your daily activities will depend on how far your bones have slipped, it’s important to ask your physician where you fall on the spondylolisthesis grading scale. On this scale, the grades correspond with how far the bone has slipped off the bone below it. Grade 1 indicates minor slippage, whereas grade 5 is the most severe, indicating total slippage.

Question No. 2: What sorts of lifestyle changes can I make to improve my health?

Sometimes, making overall improvements to your health can greatly benefit your spine, potentially reducing your spondylolisthesis symptoms along the way. For example, tobacco use can impair proper circulation, so the spine may not be able to receive the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. This is one reason why your physician may advise you to quit tobacco use, if applicable. Losing weight is another common recommendation for people who are overweight and have spine conditions. Reducing the amount of excessive weight borne by the spine, especially in the lower back (lumbar spine), can remove some of the burden placed on the area affected by spondylolisthesis, potentially helping with symptoms.

Question No. 3: What spondylolisthesis treatment options are available to me, and might surgery be necessary?

Depending upon your condition and your overall health, your physician may recommend one type of treatment over another, but it’s important that you discuss your options and goals together. In many cases, surgery is a last-resort option that is reserved only for those who haven’t responded well to conservative, nonsurgical treatments. Some of the more commonly suggested nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Bracing the neck or back
  • Taking anti-inflammatory and/or pain-relieving drugs
  • Exercising regularly
  • Stretching daily
  • Attending physical therapy

Question No. 4: If surgery is necessary, what options are available?

In many cases, your physician won’t recommend surgery immediately following your spondylolisthesis diagnosis, preferring to instead opt for more conservative treatments first. However, if you have very severe spondylolisthesis, it may be useful to understand the options available to you, including open spine surgery and less invasive options.

Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery.^ To learn about our spondylolisthesis procedures and to see if you’re a candidate, contact us today.