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Causes and Effects of Spondylolisthesis by Caroline Marshak

By at March 15, 2014 | 8:41 am | Print

Spondylolisthesis is a back condition that is not well-known to many people in the United States. There are many causes to this disorder but few ways to treat it.

Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips out of place and moves closer to the bone below it. This typically happens in the adolescent years, but can occur at birth or even later in life. Certain sports can cause this disorder, such as dancing, gymnastics and football. These activities strain the back muscles and put stress on the bones in the lower back. Gymnastics and dance are known for their hyperextensions and movement, which is why this condition often targets people who participate in these sports.

Now you may be asking yourself, how does a bone shift out of place just because you are moving more than the average person? Shouldn’t that make the muscles in the back stronger? The answer is both yes and no. Even though the person is working their back muscles, the bones are still put through a lot of stress, which cause them to become weak and move out of their proper position, and in some cases break or fracture. The pain can be very mild and one may not even know their back is out of line. This is obviously the best-case scenario. On the other hand, the back pain can become so severe that the bones pinch the lumbar nerves, which cause one or both legs to go numb from time to time.  Numbness often occurs when the person is standing straight up or laying flat on their back. This is because the nerves are pinched more as the spine is curved backwards, rather than forwards. The person may feel relief if they lean forward and touch their toes because of this reason.

Other symptoms of spondylolisthesis may include pain in the buttocks, tenderness in area of the fracture or slipped disc, and stiffness in the lower back. After a doctor has seen the x-rays and determines if the patient has spondylolisthesis, he or she will send them to physical therapy to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. In some cases, the condition is too severe to treat with physical therapy and the next step is an epidural steroid injection.

Steroid injections are the second easiest way to treat the back pain, following physical therapy. The patient will go to a hospital or treatment center where the doctor can inject a steroid that will help alleviate the pain for a few months to even years. The doctor will locate the damaged area and use an epidural to inject the medication. After two weeks, the patient consults back with a doctor on how much the pain has subsided. If the person is still experiencing back pain, the doctor may ask the patient to come back to the facility to try doing the injection a second time. Typically after the third try, the patient will see results. If not, the doctor may consult him or her about spinal fusion surgery.

Spinal fusion surgery is designed to stop the movement of the vertebrae. A bone graft is set in between the two affected vertebra to stop the motion. This surgery can be very affective and alleviate the pain for the rest of their life. Patients usually stay in the hospital for three or four days and are recommended a mild rehabilitation course directly after. The recovery process is longer than most other back procedures because the person must wait for the doctor to see the bones start healing before he or she returns to a normal lifestyle, which often takes about three months. The bones will not be fully healed until at least a year after surgery.

Spondylolisthesis can be a very painful condition. It is best to see a doctor as soon as you feel discomfort in the spine because the sooner it is treated, the easier it is to fix the problem. Although there are several causes to the problem, it is definitely possible to recover after the proper steps are taken.

References:

WebMD – http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/pain-management-spondylolisthesis

MedlinePlus – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001260.htm

Spinehealth.com – http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/spinal-fusion/lumbar-spinal-fusion-surgery

 

 

 

 

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