Spondylolisthesis is a degenerative spine condition thatcan sometimes occur in the neck or back.Specifically, spondylolisthesis describes an instance wherea vertebra has slid out of position (in any direction) andcome to rest on the vertebra below it, causing themisalignment of the spine. Treatment of spondylolisthesisis varied but in the event that the stability of the spinalcolumn is at risk, spinal fusion is almost always the bestoption. Additionally, while this condition can conceivablyhappen anywhere along the spinal column, it is far andaway most common in the lumbar spine of the lowerback.
The Spinal AnatomyTo understand spondylolisthesis fully, it is important to have a basic understanding ofthe spinal anatomy. In the back and the neck, vertebrae are stacked one on top ofanother, and serve two basic purposes. For starters, the spinal column must be flexibleenough to allow for the full range of motion that we all require for daily activity.Additionally, the spine must also be extremely strong because a tremendous burden isput on the region from supporting the weight of the body. In order to fulfill theseresponsibilities a number of anatomical components must work together in closeproximity in the spinal column. For instance, intervertebral discs cushion and separatethe vertebrae, vertebral joints connect adjacent vertebrae, and ligaments and musclessupport the back and neck.The problem is that over time, wear and tear can take its toll on the spinal anatomy asa result of years of regular use. This deterioration is mostly normal and accounts forthe reduction in mobility and the minor aches and pains that most of us understand tobe part of the aging process. However, for some individuals, degeneration can advanceto the point where spinal stability is at risk, which will require medical attention toeffectively treat.
Spondylolisthesis CausesWhen the anatomical elements of the spine degenerate, spondylolisthesis may develop, causing avertebra to become misaligned. The most common way for this to happen is to have a lumbarvertebra slide forward and come to rest on the vertebra below. That said, spondylolisthesis is alsodescribed in degrees of severity, and minor cases can often be managed before the overallintegrity of the spine is at risk. These grades include:• Grade I – 0-25 percent slippage• Grade II – 26-50 percent slippage• Grade III – 51-75 percent slippage• Grade IV – 76-99 percent slippage• Grade V – 100 percent, complete slippageWhile the leading cause of this condition tends to be nothing more serious than the natural agingprocess, there are other extenuating factors that can make an individual more likely to experiencethe problem to varying degrees. For starters, an impact injury or trauma can lead directly tospondylolisthesis.Additionally, a number of lifestyle factors often can accelerate or exacerbate the deterioration ofthe spine. For example, individuals who suffer from obesity tend to be at a higher risk of spineproblems later in life. This is because the burden of supporting excess body fat further strains thespine, which can make the anatomy deteriorate prematurely. Similarly, having a line of work thatrequires frequent lifting, bending, or repetitive movements can accelerate deterioration.
Treatment OptionsWhile spondylolisthesis canbe a significant problem, if itis caught early enough it cansometimes be treatedwithout surgery.Strengthening the back witha variety of low-impactexercises, for example, canalleviate some of thepressure placed on thespinal column.
FusionIn the event that surgery is required, there are anumber of options that may be considered. In mostcases, spinal fusion is the surgery of choice becauseit removes the intervertebral disc and stabilizes theaffected region of the spine with a bone graft andsurgical hardware. Additionally, recentadvancements in endoscopic technology have mademinimally invasive stabilization procedures apossibility. To learn more, speak with a specialist inyour area.