What is Spondylolisthesis?
Over the years, we ask a lot of our spine. Through a person’s lifetime, this interdependent and essential structure helps support the weight of the upper body, protects the spinal cord and facilitates movement. Eventually, the strain that results from these responsibilities begins to have consequences. Intervertebral discs lose water content and the structural quality of the vertebral column starts to deteriorate. Besides the general wear and tear that occurs as we age, spinal injuries can happen at any point in an individual’s life. Traumatic injuries often happen suddenly and may disrupt proper functioning. All of these factors generally contribute to the development of harmful spinal complications.
The term “spondylolisthesis” refers to one such condition that occurs when a vertebra in the spine slips forward and slides over the bone below it. Although spondylolisthesis most commonly occurs in the lumbar (lower back) region, this condition may develop in the cervical (neck) and thoracic (middle back) areas of the spine as well. Oftentimes, spondylolisthesis will place tremendous pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, which in turn leads to intense pain and discomfort. Some patients may experience no symptoms or delayed symptoms that surface well after the original post-vertebral slip. Others will notice immediate discomfort as soon as the vertebra shifts. If spondylolisthesis is causing pain and other debilitating symptoms, there are many safe, evidence-based methods to address this condition and encourage restoration to a patient’s quality of life.
Spondylolisthesis most often ensues after a fracture, but there are many causes that can contribute to this disorder, including:
- Congenital defective joints, genetics and family history
- Sudden injuries or traumas which commonly occur as the result of manual labor, high-impact sports, hard falls or unexpected accidents
- Overuse of the affected joint
- Frequent, improper movements or lifting
- Aging and general wear and tear associated with the aging process
- Conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, that affect the behavior of intervertebral discs
- Lack of exercise
- Smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol
The above causes play a central role in many back-related conditions besides spondylolisthesis. For this reason, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as you realize you are experiencing a spine complication. Receiving an accurate, prompt diagnosis will better your chances of attaining the most optimal treatment possible.
The symptoms of spondylolisthesis vary widely depending on the location and severity of the displaced vertebrae. However, some of the most common indicators of spondylolisthesis are:
- Pain or numbness in the buttocks or legs, if spondylolisthesis has occurred in the lower back region
- Weakness in lower back and affected extremities
- Difficulty walking and performing other everyday tasks
- Pain that worsens when a patient twists or bends over
Some patients encountering spondylolisthesis may evince no symptoms at all. The problems associated with this condition usually only arise when the problematic vertebrae begins to compress one or more nearby nerves.
In rare cases, spondylolisthesis may cause incontinence of the bladder or bowels, as well as fever and immobility. Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one begin to exhibit these symptoms as a medical emergency might be occurring.
Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach
If left untreated, spondylolisthesis can lead to an array of related spine complications and may begin to significantly impact your health and well-being. By proactively addressing spondylolisthesis, you can take control of your condition and lessen or even eliminate inhibiting symptoms. From diagnosis to recovery, the team of spine experts at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® is committed to helping you achieve a pain-free life, so that you can return to the activities you love faster.
The first step toward finding relief from spondylolisthesis is to schedule a consultation at one of our conveniently located spine clinics. During this initial visit, one of our experienced spine specialists will attentively evaluate your medical history, physical state and symptoms. To diagnose spondylolisthesis and determine its severity, a C.T. scan, MRI or X-ray may be required. This also helps us to rule out other, similar conditions.
Whenever possible, we encourage patients to consider conservative, non-invasive treatments before looking into surgical intervention. Spondylolisthesis can be responsive to non-surgical treatments, such as:
Physical Therapy: When combatting spondylolisthesis, the primary goals of physical therapy are to strengthen the core muscles which support the spine. In addition, physical therapy may help patients improve their flexibility and lose excess pounds. Being overweight or obese can worsen spondylolisthesis by placing immense pressure on the spine and leading to additional difficulties within the back region.
Medication: Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications can reduce the amount of discomfort caused by spondylolisthesis. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, we are able to deliver medications through some of the most advanced methods available today in order to increase their efficiency and supply long-term effects. Through ultrasound technology, electrical stimulation and localized injections, we are able to provide medicinal relief to affected areas of the body. Some of these medicines can provide an average relief time that is lengthier than usual (though that is dependent upon the patient), which allows spondylolisthesis to resolve on its own in the meantime.
Additional Modifications: For some patients, assistive devices, heating and cooling therapies, a limited period of rest or other alternative treatments may be recommended. Every component of care depends upon the patient’s unique case of spondylolisthesis, as well as their goals and lifestyle.
In cases where spondylolisthesis is causing the vertebrae to continually move or in situations where the spine requires stabilization, surgical intervention may be necessary right away. We are proud to offer a number of innovative procedures that use extremely small incisions and tiny cameras to avoid placing unnecessary stress upon the body. The minimally invasive surgeries available at our premier spine clinics generally lead to:
- Shortened recovery times that enable patients to return to their daily routines and lives more quickly
- Less post-operative pain than what is statistically linked to traditional open surgeries
- A minimal risk of scarring or trauma to surrounding tissues
- Significantly reduced blood loss than what is typically experienced in open back surgery
To learn if you may be a candidate for minimally invasive surgery or for more information about spondylolisthesis, please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to helping you feel better, faster!