Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis

Other names you need to know: Spondylolises, Anterolisthesis, Retrolisthesis

Patients often get diagnoses with a "spondylolisthesis." A big name, for something rather common and often not a big deal. 

If you view the spinal column, it is formed by discs (cushions) and vertebrae (bones) stacked one-above another. These structures are then surrounded by ligaments and muscles to help "keep everything together", especially during forward and backward bending. 

IT is estimated that 1 person in 20 develop a condition whereby one vertebrae (bone) slips forward (spondylolisthesis) or backward (retrolisthesis) in regards to the vertebrae below. There are many causes for this, including softer bones (osteoporosis), injury, wear-and-tear, genetics or even posture- especially people with a sway back. When extra stress is added to the vertebrae (bones) they can sometimes develop stress fractures (beginning stage of softening), whereby the front and back part of the bones (vertebrae) separate, allowing a little forward sliding. It is important that you realize the following: 

  • These conditions are VERY common. Most athletes have them.
  • They often get diagnosed by "accident." When the muscles, ligaments and adjacent joints have to work harder (due to the slippage), pain may develop. Ultimately pain causes you go see the doctor. Then, when an X-ray, CT scan or MRI is ordered, a stress fracture is found. Truth is- usually new bone has already formed, indicating an old fracture. The pain is NOT from the fracture. 
  • By training muscles in the area, the spine can be well protected and be able to return to any/all activities. Remember- studies show many professional athletes have them and they can do amazing things with their spines. The difference? They train their muscles well- a good deal for you!
  • The forward and/or backward movements are small and in itself you should not worry about that.
  • In very rare cases pain is severe and even the treatment, cannot be controlled. These patients may then undergo surgery to correct this extra movement. Remember - surgery is rare and a last option.
  • The next time you're at a ball game, look around: There are probably several people around you "doing the wave" with a spondylolisthesis, without even knowing it. Just because you "found out" about it, does not mean it need to limit your activity. Just make sure you take care of your back like any other back patient!

 

*For more information- ask your physical therapist. This is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. 

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