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Pain Management: Spondylolisthesis

What Is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a slipping of vertebra that occurs, in most cases, at the base of the spine. Spondylolysis, which is a defect or fracture of one or both wing-shaped parts of a vertebra, can result in vertebrae slipping backward, forward, or over a bone below.

Causes of Spondylolisthesis

There are many causes for spondylolisthesis. A vertebra might be defective from the time a person is born, or a vertebra may be broken by trauma or a stress fracture. In addition, vertebrae can be broken down by infection or disease. Most commonly, this disorder occurs in children and adolescents who are active in athletics, such as gymnastics. 

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis

Symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle tightness and stiffness
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Pain radiating down the legs (due to pressure on nerve roots)

Spondylolisthesis Treatments

Spondylolisthesis is treated with the strengthening of supportive abdominal and back muscles through physical therapy. For patients who continue to have severe pain and disability after physical therapy, there is the option of surgical fusion (arthrodesis) of the vertebra to the bone below.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 29, 2012
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