If simple tasks around the house such as bending down to pick up a few objects, or if
standing and walking has become a dreaded activity to do because of pain, then it may
be time to visit a doctor to see if spondylolisthesis is the culprit.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs in the lower back when a vertebra has
slipped out of place in the spine. Due to this slipping, the said vertebra could put
pressure on a nerve resulting in an intense pain in either the neck or back, sometimes
even in the legs, depending on which vertebra has slipped.
The three most common types of spondylolisthesis are congenital, isthmic and
degenerative. With congenital, a person was most likely born with a type of unusual
bone formation. Because of this, the vertebrae are not in the normal alignment. This odd
formation increases the risk of a person’s vertebrae slipping, resulting in
spondylolisthesis. Isthmic spondylolisthesis is actually the effect of the initial
spondylolisthesis; small stress breaks in the vertebrae begin to occur. These breaks, or
fractures then lead to the vertebrae slipping because the bones have become so weak
due to the spondylolisthesis. Of the three, degenerative spondylolisthesis is the most
common type. As people begin to age, the discs located between the vertebral bones
start to weaken, becoming less like a cushion and more like a hazard. These discs are
no longer able to prevent the vertebrae from moving, which results in a slip.
Though these are the three most known forms, there are three others that can occur,
traumatic, pathological and post-surgical. Traumatic spondylolisthesis occurs when an
individual has experienced a type of injury that then leads to a vertebra slipping.
Pathological can happen when a person has had a tumor, previous disease or infection
which has caused the spine to weaken, then resulting in spondylolisthesis. Post-surgical
spondylolisthesis is simply that; if you’ve already had a slip or noticed slipping, then
undergo a spinal surgery and experience a move severe form of spondylolisthesis, this
type would fall under post-surgical.
Though the most common age range to see symptoms of spondylolisthesis is near or
after the age of 40, teenagers may begin to experience spondylolisthesis due to their
peak times of growth, resulting in back pain that is really spondylolisthesis.
For many, symptoms of spondylolisthesis may seem nonexistent. Usually the first and
most prominent sign of spondylolisthesis is low back pain. This pain may even be
mistaken as a strain or pulled muscle at first. Because of the nerves in the spine, a
person may experience muscle spasms in their hamstring, or feel pain or a numbing
sensation from their leg to their foot, due to the slipped vertebra.
When visiting the doctor, a radiologist will examine and conclude the degree of slipping
by doing and reviewing spinal X-rays. Upon reviewing, they will then determine if
surgery is necessary or not. Normally, only Grade III and IV slips will need surgery,
while Grades I and II will not.
To grade slipping, the radiologist will use a scale of I to IV. This scale is as follows:
Grade I: 1% to 25% slip
Grade II: 26% slip to 50% slip
Grade III: 51% to 75% slip
Grade IV: 76% to 100% slip