By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson
Spondylolisthesis can be an intimidating word at first. In Latin “Spondylo” means vertebrae or spinal bone and “listhesis” means slippage. So, spondylolisthesis refers to the forward slippage of one spinal bone (vertebra) to another.
Spondylolisthesis can be caused by degeneration, congenital anomalies, trauma or disease processes which effect bone. Most commonly, the bones of the low back or lumbar region will be effected. Young gymnasts and footballers are more prone to spondylolisthesis due to some sports-specific actions (hyperextension) placing extra stress on vertebra. However, some people are genetically predisposed to this condition.
Spondylolisthesis can vary greatly in their severity from 0% to >100%. They are classified using grades 1-5, with grade 1 being the smallest percentage of forward slippage and grade 5 being the greatest.
What are the Signs & symptoms of Spondylolisthesis?
The signs and symptoms of Spondylolisthesis can include the following:
- Consistent back and/or buttock pain
- Back stiffness
- Tight back, buttock and hamstring muscles
- Pain worsening with activity and improving with rest
Note: Imaging of completely asymptomatic people can show spondylolisthesis
What can I do ‘right now’ to help with my Spondylolisthesis?
Rest is an important step in the repair process for spondylolisthesis as you want to avoid making your spondylolisthesis slip forward any further. You want to allow tissues around the slippage an opportunity to heal themselves, and this process will be prolonged if you continue to re-aggravate already stressed tissues. Bed rest is generally not recommended for this complaint, but hyper extension and other aggravating movements should be avoided. Walking and gentle range of motion in the flexion plane are encouraged.
You may find a back brace helps in the reduction of some symptoms. Bracing aims to add some external stability to the region and prevent you from going in to aggravating ranges of motion. Ask your health professional whether this is a suitable option for you and which variety you should trial.
Anti-inflammatory medication may be of assistance in symptom reduction. It is important to check with your health professional, GP or pharmacists prior to self-medicating.
When should I see a health professional for Spondylolisthesis?
- Bowel or bladder symptoms
- Pins, needles, tingles or weakness in the legs
- Increasing pain intensity
- Progressively decreasing back range of motion
For more information on Spondylolisthesis, check out the video below by Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson, or click here.
What will a health professional do to help with Spondylolisthesis?
In your first appointment, your health professional will gather information about your pain to try and establish the potential causes of your symptoms. They will then deduct a diagnosis using assessment of appropriate regions and provocative testing of certain structures. In some cases, further imaging, such as an X-Ray or MRI, may be referred for.
After an accurate assessment and diagnosis, hands on therapy will aim to decrease muscular guarding, decompress the spinal region and address spinal compensation patterns. Exercise rehabilitation prescription will play an important role in recovery, aiming to improve core strength and correct muscular activation patterns. Your practitioner will also spend time educating on what activities and motions to avoid to promote recovery.
In severe cases of spondylolisthesis spinal fusion surgery may be required.
For more information on conditions of the Lumbopelvic region, click on the following links:
- Lumbopelvic Pain and Conditions
- Piriformis Syndrome (Sciatica)
- Lumbar Disc Lesion (Slipped Disc)
- Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ) Sprain
- Spinal Canal Stenosis
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