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Spondylolisthesis

What is spondylolisthesis?

In spondylolisthesis, one bone in your back (vertebra) slides forward over the bone below it. It most often occurs in the lower spine (lumbosacral area). In some cases, this may lead to your spinal cord or nerve roots being squeezed. This can cause back pain and numbness or weakness in one or both legs. In rare cases, it can also lead to losing control over your bladder or bowels. See a doctor right away if you begin losing bladder or bowel control.

Sometimes when a vertebra slips out of place, you may have no symptoms at all or no symptoms until years later. Then you may have pain in your low back or buttock. Muscles in your leg may feel tight or weak. You may even limp.

  • Symptoms

    What are the symptoms of spondylolisthesis?

    Symptoms of spondylolisthesis may include:

    • Back or buttock pain.
    • Pain that runs from the lower back down one or both legs.
    • Numbness or weakness in one or both legs.
    • Difficulty walking.
    • Leg, back, or buttock pain that gets worse when you bend over or twist.
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control, in rare cases.

    Sometimes spondylolisthesis causes no symptoms at all.

  • Diagnosis

  • Causes

  • Treatment

    How is spondylolisthesis treated?

    Treatment for spondylolisthesis begins with stopping any physical activity that may have led to vertebrae damage. For pain, your doctor may suggest taking NSAIDs. These include ibuprofen (such as Advil) or naproxen (such as Aleve). Or use acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain.

    Doctors often suggest physical therapy to build up stomach and back muscles (core strengthening). Losing weight, if you need to, may also help.

    Surgery may help if the pain is extreme, the bones continue to move, or you have nerve root or spinal cord damage from the condition. This takes pressure off the spinal cord or nerves (decompression). Or the bones may be fused in position. Sometimes both decompression and fusion are done during the same surgery.

    After any of these surgeries, you may need to wear a cast or back brace for a while. Later, rehabilitation therapy will help make your muscles stronger and your movement easier.


    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.