Overview of spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a term describing slippage of one of the vertebrae, or when one of the bones in the spine actually moves forward out of the spinal column. This condition usually develops in the lower (lumbar) spine as a result of the pressure required to support the upper body and allow for everyday movement.

Slipped vertebrae do not always cause painful symptoms, but if the slippage constricts the spinal canal or nerve root exit enough to interfere with a nerve, pain and other issues can be experienced. These symptoms can turn even the most basic tasks — sitting at your desk, playing with your children — into painful ordeals. If you have been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, it is crucial to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan with the best chance of returning you to an active life.

Spondylolisthesis causes, symptoms and diagnosis

The vertebra will usually start to slip out because of a fracture in one of the spinal joints, called the pars interarticularis. In other cases, it can be related to wear on the spinal discs and ligaments that make it easier for vertebrae to become displaced. These are some of the main factors that may cause this to occur:

  • Natural age-related degeneration
  • Extreme forces from sports like wrestling
  • Traumatic injury
  • Birth defect

You can have this condition for years without knowing it, but you may eventually seek a diagnosis and treatment if pain develops due to nerve compression. Commonly experienced spondylolisthesis symptoms include local and traveling pain, tingling, numbness and muscle spasms. Many times, the condition will be diagnosed if it is discovered because of related conditions. Your primary care doctor can confirm diagnosis with a full medical exam, including diagnostic imagery like an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. Most doctors use a scale of spondylolisthesis grades to rate the severity based on the percentage of slippage that has developed.

Treating spondylolisthesis

Many patients diagnosed with spondylolisthesis do not require surgery to successfully treat their pain and return to a satisfying quality of life. These doctor-recommended conservative treatments — rest, pain medication and physical therapy are a few examples — can get you back to normal, healthy activity. However, sometimes weeks and months of spondylolisthesis treatment can go by without bringing acceptable relief and surgical options will then start to be considered.

If you are recommended for surgery but have concerns about the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open spine procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries are performed by our team of highly skilled surgeons on an outpatient basis. By using muscle-sparing techniques, our procedures allow for a shorter recovery period^ and lower risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To learn more about our procedures, reach out to our caring and dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.