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Spondylolisthesis causes and treatment options – as explained by the orthopedic experts at Laser Spine Institute’s Tampa surgery center

Spondylolisthesis is a condition affecting the spine that can produce painful symptoms that can worsen if not treated. This condition is most prevalent in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine.

Spondylolisthesis defined

Spondylolisthesis is the result when a vertebrae slips out of its normal position in the spine. Isthmic spondylolisthesis can occur in children as a result of a defect or stress fracture, while degenerative spondylolisthesis usually occurs in older adults and is often the result of other degenerative conditions that develop in the spine.

How this condition is diagnosed

If you are experiencing painful symptoms and you suspect spondylolisthesis as the cause, see a physician as soon as possible. This condition is classified using a scale of 1 to 5, with grade 1 signifying a slight slippage and grade 5 meaning 100 percent slippage. To determine the location and degree of your spondylolisthesis, your physician will likely review your medical history and perform a physical exam and an X-ray or MRI.

How is spondylolisthesis caused?

Degenerative spondylolisthesis can occur in adults when one or more degenerative spinal conditions – such as spinal osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease – causes the spine to become unstable. Spinal osteoarthritis can cause the facet joints between the vertebrae to deteriorate, and degenerative disc disease can alter the normal shape of a spinal disc. These factors can cause a vertebra to shift out of its normal position, resulting in spondylolisthesis. The natural aging process is the leading cause of the development of these degenerative conditions, though injuries and overuse can also be factors.

What to look for if you suspect spondylolisthesis

Depending on its severity, degenerative spondylolisthesis can produce no symptoms at all or can result in severe pain and limited mobility. Some common symptoms of more severe cases include back pain, muscle spasms, hamstring stiffness and pain in the buttocks. Because it most often occurs in the lumbar spine, spondylolisthesis often results in lower back pain that is aggravated by activity.

Your treatment options

Conservative spondylolisthesis treatments can help to alleviate your symptoms, but it is important to follow your physician’s advice so you don’t further aggravate your condition. Stretching exercises and physical therapy are common treatment options that may help to reduce inflammation and strengthen the muscles in the spine, while over-the-counter pain medications and steroid injections can help to temporarily reduce your pain. Alternative therapies such as yoga, chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture may also provide relief, though the clinical effectiveness of these treatments has not been studied well.

When to consider surgery

Patients who haven’t found relief from weeks or months of conservative and alternative treatments may want to consider surgery. At Laser Spine Institute’s surgery center in Tampa, FL, our minimally invasive procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^ We treat a full range of degenerative spine conditions through our outpatient procedures, including spondylolisthesis.

Contact us today if you would like to learn more. Our caring and dedicated team will be happy to help you receive a no-cost MRI of CT scan review* that can determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.