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What is spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra slips out of place onto the vertebra below it. It usually occurs where the lumbar spine meets the tailbone. It can be caused by arthritis, bone disease, fractures or sports that put stress on the lower back, such as football or weight lifting.

Common symptoms

Some people may not experience any symptoms. When they occur, symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Back stiffness
  • Leg weakness
  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle tightness
  • Numbness, pain or tingling in the thighs or buttocks
  • Tenderness

Over time, the condition can result in swayback (exaggerated lumbar curve above the buttocks) or kyphosis (rounded upper back).

How is spondylolisthesis diagnosed?

Your physician will perform a physical exam and may ask you to raise your leg straight out in front of you. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), will also help your physician determine if a bone in the spine is out of place or broken.

How is spondylolisthesis treated?

Treatment will depend on the severity of the slippage. In most cases, symptoms improve with exercises that stretch and strengthen the lower back, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and/or pain medication. Your physician will likely order periodic follow-up exams to check on the position of the vertebrae. In some cases, your physician may suggest wearing a back brace to stabilize the spine and limit movement.

If symptoms are severe, and they don't improve with more conservative treatments, spinal fusion surgery, in which two or more vertebrae are fused together, may be recommended.

The surgeons at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists can help you decide on the treatment that's best for you. They specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery and are experienced in diagnosing and treating disc disorders and disease, using the newest techniques for relieving pain and returning you to an active lifestyle. To make an appointment at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists, call 919-784-1410.