Spondylolisthesis arises when a bone in the spine moves forward out of its proper position onto the bone below it. It usually occurs after a fracture or break and can be discovered in both children and adults. 

If spondylolisthesis becomes severe, serious complications such as chronic back pain, infection, or temporary or permanent damage to the spinal nerve roots, which may lead to leg paralysis may arise. Let’s take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this condition.

Causes of Spondylolisthesis

There are a number of reasons spondylolisthesis may appear. Some people may be born with this condition but not realize it until they are much older. Others may face a fracture from an injury or a joint injury from arthritis or illness. Degeneration from aging or overuse, tumors, and surgery may also contribute to spondylolisthesis.

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis

The most common symptom of spondylolisthesis is lower back pain. However, the disease may also lead to muscle tightness in the hamstrings, pain, numbness or tingling in the thighs and buttocks, and weakness in the legs. Stiffness and changes in bladder function are also common symptoms of spondylolisthesis. 

Diagnosis of Spondylolisthesis

Oftentimes, someone may have spondylolisthesis without knowing it because they do not experience any symptoms. In these instances, it may be discovered during a medical exam for an entirely different condition. 

If there are symptoms of spondylolisthesis, diagnosis involves a physical exam with questions about what kind of pain or numbness the patient is facing. An x-ray of the back may be ordered if a doctor believes that spondylolisthesis is present. If necessary, a CT scan or MRI may also be used to diagnose the extent of the damage and determine viable treatment options. 

Treatments of Spondylolisthesis

There are a number of treatments for spondylolisthesis. In most cases, a doctor will recommend non-invasive treatments initially. These include hot and cold packs, braces, pain medications, and epidural injections. Fortunately, most patients enjoy relief after a month or two of conservative treatments. 

If there is severe pain that doesn’t improve with conservative treatments, a serious shift in a spinal bone, or weakness of the muscles in a leg or both legs, a surgical procedure called a spinal fusion to fuse the shifted vertebrae together may be necessary. 

Learn More

Dr. Nael Shanti of Cary Orthopaedics Spine Center specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of spinal conditions including spondylolisthesis. For questions or more information, we invite you to contact our office or schedule an appointment.