Spondylolisthesis is a condition that arises when a vertebra in the spine slips out of alignment. This condition most commonly occurs in the lumbar vertebrae (the lower back), but can also occur in other regions of the spine. Spondylolisthesis can be caused be degenerative conditions, trauma to the spine, or rarely a disease like cancer or tuberculosis. Spondylolisthesis is common, affecting 5% of people in the US.
Types of Spondylolisthesis
There are five different types of spondylolisthesis, grouped by their respective causes:
- Dysplastic spondylolisthesis – Rare, present at birth
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis – Most common, occurs between the ages of 6 and 16
- Degenerative spondylolisthesis – Occurs more frequently with aging
- Traumatic spondylolisthesis – Caused by an injury to the spine
- Pathologic spondylolisthesis – Caused by a tumor of the spine
Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis
Symptoms of spondylolisthesis include back pain, postural change, difficulty walking, and pain or tightness in the legs. Unfortunately, pain does not usually correlate with the degree of vertebral displacement. In other words, subtle slippage may cause severe pain in some people while others may experience only mild symptoms with large degrees of slippage. Spondylolisthesis may cause a number of other signs and symptoms such as reduced movement of the spine, limited ability to flex the hips, and noticeable and abnormal curves in the spine. If the slippage affects the nerves, people with spondylolisthesis may notice numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
Diagnosis of Spondylolisthesis
The type and severity of symptoms are the most critical determinant of treatment. Therefore, expert diagnosis is essential. The experts at Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics will obtain a detailed history of your symptoms and perform a comprehensive evaluation of your spine and neurological function. In some cases, an MRI may be needed to assess the severity and precise location of vertebral slippage. Other studies include bone scanning, discography, and myelography.
Treatment of Spondylolisthesis
Fortunately, changes in exercise habits and other lifestyle modifications can often treat mild symptoms of spondylolisthesis. Patients may benefit from a back brace or physical therapy. If none treatments do not relieve the patient’s symptoms, spinal surgery is remarkably effective with success and patient satisfaction rates above 90%. Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics and Dr. Rovner provide definitive diagnosis and treatment of spondylolisthesis and is an expert on its surgical treatment.