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Spondylolisthesis diagram

Patients frequently come with the diagnosis of spondylolisthesis. While the word itself is a mouthful, it literally translates to slippage of the spine. Spondy- Spine; Olisthesis- Slippage. 

In children and adolescents, spondylolisthesis most commonly occurs between the fifth bone in the lower back (lumbar vertebra) and the first bone in the sacrum (pelvis area). It can be due to a birth defect(congenital) in that area of the spine or injury (acute trauma versus repetitive injury).

In adults, the most common cause is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bone.

Symptoms will vary buy they may include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle tightness (tight hamstring muscle)
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the thighs and buttocks
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness in the area of the slipped disc
  • Weakness in the legs

Treatment depends on how the severity of symptoms and the degree of slippage. Most slips are low grade and most patients get better with exercises to stretch and strengthen lower back muscles.

If the slippage is not severe, you can play most sports and participate in activities such as gardening as long as there is no pain. Most of the time, you can resume activities slowly.
You may be asked to avoid contact sports or to change activities to protect your back from being overextended.

You will have follow-up x-rays to make sure the problem is not getting worse.

Your doctor may also recommend:

  • Back brace to limit spine movement
  • Pain medicine
  • Physical therapy

Surgery may be needed to fuse the slipped vertebrae if you have:

  • Severe pain that does not get better with treatment
  • A severe slip of a spine bone
  • Weakness of muscles in one or both of your legs

Although there is a very small chance of nerve injury with such surgery, the results can be very successful.

Spondylolisthesis Animation

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