What is Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis means the forward slippage of one lumbar vertebra in relation to the vertebra below. Spondylolisthesis has many causes, six to be exact. The more common causes are, with adults, arthrititic changes that pushes one bone on top of other, and in children, a small break (lysis) of a bone that allows one bone to shift on top of the other.
What are the common symptoms of Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis can happen at any level of the spine. The symptoms will vary depending on what part of the spine is involved. Commonly, patients will experience back pain. Occasionally, they will complain of a “clicking” noise when the try to get out of bed or stand up from a chair. Typically, patients will experience shooting pain down the leg or arms, and may have weakness in the ankle giving difficulty with walking up stairs and dragging of the foot by the end of the day. Other symptoms are possible, but these are the more common ones.
So how is my Spondylolisthesis treated? As mentioned, there are many types of Spondylolisthesis. Treatment is based on the type. As long as there is no neurological damage, conservative management is the main stay for treatment. This includes physical therapy, injections and anti-inflammatory medications. When pain becomes relentless or if neurological changes occur, surgery may be offered.
There are many studies from the Scoliosis Research Society describing the long term benefits of surgery for Spondylolisthesis, but patient’s expectations need to be realistic. Recovery requires time and patience. Being a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, I tailor every surgical decision making process to each unique patient and their specific disc pathology using evidence based medicine. This can vary, obviously, depending on the pathology and the patient.