Spondylolisthesis — the odds are good that you’ve never heard of this condition until we diagnosed it as the source of your back pain. Unlike many back problems, this condition can strike at any age — 6-7% of people under the age of 18 have isthmic spondylolisthesis and degenerative spondylolisthesis is found in up to 18% of adults in the United States who undergo an MRI on their lumbar spines.
While having a diagnosis for your lower back pain is a great step in the right direction, you wonder how you can find relief from your spondylolisthesis. At Texas Spine Consultants, Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD understand that pain relief is your top priority, so we’ve gathered together five effective approaches to managing the discomfort that comes with spondylolisthesis.
A brief review of spondylolisthesis
If you’re reading this, you may already understand the condition, but we want to quickly review spondylolisthesis and the different types of the condition.
In basic terms, spondylolisthesis describes a condition in which a vertebrae in your lumbar spine slips out of place and makes contact with the vertebra below. When this happens, nerves along your lumbar spine can be compressed, which is what causes the pain.
There are several different types of spondylolisthesis, but the two we’re going to address here are:
1. Isthmic spondylolisthesis
This typically occurs in adolescents under the age of 18 and stems from a stress fracture in your vertebra (spondylolysis). This fracture can then lead to a shift in the vertebra and spondylolisthesis. The reason why younger adults are more susceptible to this condition is because they’re more active and go through growth spurts, which can stretch the lumbar spine.
2. Degenerative spondylolisthesis
As the supportive structures in your spine begin to degrade with age, you can develop degenerative spondylolisthesis. Carrying extra weight can also place more pressure on your spine and cause this type of degeneration.
Five treatments for spondylolisthesis
The good news is that spondylolisthesis can mostly be managed without surgery. While surgery can play a role in severe spondylolisthesis (more on this in a minute), our goal is to help relieve your discomfort with less invasive approaches that include:
First, it's important that you rest and take the pressure off of your lumbar spine. Depending upon the degree of the vertebral slippage, we’ll recommend a good timeline for taking it easy.
2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
Often, simple over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen can help relieve your pain by reducing the swelling that’s compressing your nerves.
We may recommend bracing to reduce the movement in your lumbar spine and allow time for the vertebra to heal.
4. Corticosteroid injections
If over-the-counter medications aren’t helping with your pain, we can give you a corticosteroid injection, which includes a local anesthetic for immediate pain relief and a steroid that provides longer-lasting relief as it reduces inflammation.
If the slippage is great and your spondylolisthesis doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, we may recommend a spinal fusion, a technique in which we fuse the two vertebrae together.
As you can see, we’re well equipped to help you manage your spondylolisthesis, no matter the degree of severity, so that you can regain pain-free movement.
To learn more about spondylolisthesis and your treatment options, please contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.