Symptoms of and Solutions for Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a disorder where a vertebra in the spine moves out of position. Often, it’s a complication of an untreated stress fracture of one of the vertebra, usually in the lower back, and is a common injury with young athletes.

Spondylolisthesis is one of the most common sources of low back pain for young athletes as the bone begins to compress the nerves in the spinal column. Also, some people have a genetic tendency toward spondylolisthesis. In this case, a patient might be born with thin vertebrae and a bone might move out of position or slip during a growth spurt. Athletes who participate in sports like weight lifting, football or gymnastics are especially at risk for spondylolisthesis, since they put a lot of stress on their lower spine.

What are the symptoms?

Sometimes, the symptoms of the disorder are silent. At other times, the patient feels a pain like a strained muscle across his or her lower back. Spondylolisthesis can also be the reason for back spasms that lead to stiffness and for the hamstring muscles to painfully tighten up. Other symptoms can be tingling and numbness and sciatic pain. The patient might also walk with a limp.

Spondylolisthesis can be diagnoses through an X-ray. An X-ray lets a doctor can see whether or not the vertebra has been fractured and has started to slide forward. The doctor might order a CT scan to see if the bone has begun to compress the spinal nerves.


The disorder can be treated both surgically or nonsurgically. Surgical treatment, such as minimally invasive spine surgery, is considered a last resort. Until surgery is needed, the doctor may prescribe NSAIDs like ibuprofen to reduce the patient’s pain. Injections can be given to help with the pain, or the patient may be be fitted with a back brace for support. Physical therapy will be suggested, as certain stretching exercises can help strengthen the back. Other treatments include the application of hot and cold packs, ultrasound stimulation or massage. Some patients also benefit from simple, but not prolonged, bed rest. Now and again, the patient will undergo X-rays to make sure that he or she is healing properly.

If surgery is needed because the condition isn’t eased by nonsurgical interventions, the surgeon might perform a spinal fusion. In this case, bone grafts are usually taken from the pelvis are placed over the slippage. Rods and screws may also be placed in the vertebrae to stabilize the area.

If you are experiencing severe back pain, you should contact a specialist right away.