Everything you need to know about spondylolisthesis treatment
Spondylolisthesis treatment methods vary depending on the severity of the condition. Spondylolisthesis, a spinal disorder characterized by the forward slippage of a vertebra over the one beneath it, is graded by using a scale to measure any slippage. The scale ranges from grade 1, indicating a slippage of less than 25 percent, to grade 5, which is a slippage of 100 percent.
There are a variety of conservative therapies that can be used to treat your spondylolisthesis symptoms and restabilize the spine to prevent further slippage. In general, spondylolisthesis symptoms may include pain in the neck, lower back and buttocks as well as nerve pain in the arms, hands, legs and feet. Numbness, weakness or tingling, loss of bladder/bowel control and tightness in the hamstrings are other possible symptoms experienced with spondylolisthesis.
If you have been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, it is important for you to research this condition and learn about the treatment options available to you, so you can have an informed conversation with your doctor and make the best decision for your needs. Take a moment to read through the available nonsurgical and surgical spondylolisthesis treatment options and feel free to contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute with any questions you may have.
Nonsurgical spondylolisthesis treatment
Conservative spondylolisthesis treatment plans are designed to target your specific symptoms while factoring in your age and general health. There are many different conservative treatments available and some carry a limited risk for side effects.
Treatment of spondylolisthesis may include any of the following:
- Stretching and exercise. Your doctor may recommend that you perform specific stretches that target tightened hamstrings and complete exercises like yoga to increase your flexibility and strengthen your back in order to help support the weakened spine.
- Rest. You will be advised to avoid activities that might worsen your condition and you may be told to take periods of rest. Extended bed rest is typically not recommended as a spondylolisthesis treatment because activity is essential to maintaining the strength of the muscles supporting the spine.
- Physical therapy. Your doctor may suggest that you attend regular physical therapy sessions as a form of spondylolisthesis treatment. During these sessions, your therapist will ask you to perform specific exercises designed to enhance the strength and flexibility of the affected areas of your spine.
- Chiropractic manipulation. Chiropractors aim to bring the spine back into proper alignment through manual manipulation. Many people find chiropractic treatment helpful in alleviating their neck and back pain, but the beneficial effects are typically temporary because chiropractic care doesn’t permanently reduce the grade of vertebral slippage.
- Bracing. In some cases, temporarily immobilizing the back can be helpful in alleviating symptoms. Your doctor can determine how long you should brace your back for the optimal spondylolisthesis treatment benefits.
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications or muscle relaxants can help you control your spondylolisthesis symptoms. Steroid injections or herbal medicines may also be recommended to relieve your neck or back pain. Before beginning such treatment, be sure to consult with your doctor about what pain reliever and dosage would work best for you.
- Acupuncture. This involves inserting tiny needles at strategic places on the body to stimulate specific nerves and muscles. Many people find that it helps reduce the sensation of pain due to spondylolisthesis, although results from this treatment are typically temporary.
The wrong treatment approach can actually further damage your spine, so it is extremely important to work closely with a doctor before beginning a new regimen.
Surgical spondylolisthesis treatment
Unless spondylolisthesis causes severe symptoms, surgery is only recommended after traditional treatment options have been unable to address the symptoms. Spondylolisthesis surgery usually involves the removal of portions of a vertebra, part or all of a disc and/or problematic bone spurs to achieve decompression of the nerves. In some cases, a spinal fusion is performed to stabilize the vertebrae.
Traditional open spine surgeries for spondylolisthesis treatment are typically performed in a hospital, where you remain for two to five days to recover after the procedure. With these highly invasive procedures, there is an infection rate of up to 19 percent as well as a complication rate of 16.4 percent. These surgical approaches are completed using long incisions on the back or abdomen, through which surgeons access the spine and perform the surgery. In the process, the muscles of the back are often cut, which can mean a painful and lengthy healing period for patients.
At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery uses advanced technology to provide an alternative to traditional open spine procedures. We perform a range of minimally invasive surgeries that can relieve neck and back pain associated with spondylolisthesis. In contrast to traditional open spine surgeries, our procedures are completed on an outpatient basis. Our surgeons perform these surgeries using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques. These procedures allow our patients to avoid a lengthy recovery, as well as experience a 0.49 percent infection rate and a 3 percent complication rate^ when compared to open spine surgeries. Visit our FAQ page to learn how our state-of-the-art procedures can help you get your life back from spondylolisthesis.
Minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute
Our board-certified surgeons+ complete the following minimally invasive decompression procedures:
- Discectomy — which is the removal of a portion of a damaged disc to relieve pressure on a neighboring nerve root or the spinal cord
- Laminotomy — which is the removal of only a portion of the lamina
- Foraminotomy — which is the process of widening the space between two vertebrae by removing bone spurs and other obstructive tissue
- Facet thermal ablation — which is the deadening of a nerve within a facet joint in order to alleviate pain associated with degenerative arthritis
For patients who are experiencing more advanced spinal conditions, we may recommend our minimally invasive stabilization surgeries, including:
- Decompression with Interlaminar Stabilization™ Device
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
- Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF)
- Cervical disc replacement
- Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF)
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint fusion
- Posterior cervical fusion (PCF)
If you still have questions, reach out to us today and we will be happy to give you more information, as well as a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.