Cervical spondylolisthesis — overview

Cervical spondylolisthesis can be difficult to diagnose because it is relatively rare, and its symptoms are similar to those of other upper spine conditions. Spondylolisthesis, a forward displacement of a vertebra over the one below it, is more common in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine. Cervical spondylolisthesis occurs in the cervical spine — the neck region that begins at the base of the skull and continues down to the top of the rib cage.

While lumbar spondylolisthesis often results from trauma to the spine, such as heavy lifting or athletic activity, cervical spondylolisthesis typically results from neck injury or age-related conditions like arthritis. Spondylolisthesis can also be congenital, meaning it is a genetic condition present at birth. This condition can have a severe impact on your life, making even the simplest, everyday tasks difficult to accomplish.

Cervical spondylolisthesis symptoms

Symptoms of cervical spondylolisthesis include neck pain and stiffness, while the course of treatment depends on the severity of the condition. If the vertebral slippage is enough to compress a spinal nerve, radiating symptoms can also affect the head, shoulders, arms and hands. These symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Shooting or burning pain in the shoulders and arms
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Weakness in the hands and fingers

Similar to other conditions affecting the neck and back, treating cervical spondylolisthesis usually begins with a course of conservative options. Your physician may first recommend rest or moderate exercise to strengthen the neck muscles, and may then prescribe pain medication or an epidural steroid injection before recommending surgery as a last resort.

When surgery becomes an option

If you have been diagnosed with cervical spondylolisthesis, and are still in pain after exhausting nonsurgical treatments, it may be time to explore the benefits of an outpatient spine procedure. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery to help treat the symptoms of cervical spondylolisthesis. Because our surgeons access the spine using a less than 1-inch incision, our procedures result in a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication than traditional open back surgery.

If you are considering surgery, but are concerned about the risks and difficulties of traditional open neck or back procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our dedicated team can provide a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.