Spondylolisthesis (“SPON-die-low-liss-THEE-sis”) is a common spinal condition affecting the lower vertebrae. It occurs when the lower vertebrae begin to slip forward onto the bones directly beneath them. It is often caused by sports-related injuries, but it can also be present at birth (congenital spondylolisthesis). Although it is a painful condition, it is treatable, and most patients see improvement with nonoperative therapies.
Symptoms of spondylolisthesis include:
- Lower back pain that may feel like a strain
- Increasing pain with activity, including when bending backward
- Diminished pain with rest
- Pain radiating down the legs
- Bowel or bladder incontinence
- Tight hamstrings and quadricep muscles
Diagnosing & Treating Spondylolisthesis
Diagnosis is made through a physical exam, imaging tests like X-rays or CT/MRI scans, and taking a patient history. For most patients, spondylolisthesis improves with conservative, nonoperative treatment that begins with a period of rest from physical exertion. Left untreated, the condition can cause serious tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs resulting from pressure on the spinal nerve root.
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