The spine has many vertabrae and spondylolisthesis is a degeneration of a articulating (exterior) part of the vertabrae that reduces its integrity, strength, support and flexibility. The articulating part that is affected is in the rear of the vertabrae and tends to be located in L5 or L4 of the lumbar (lower back). It can range from a rating of 1-5, 5 being the most severe and 1 the least.
Spondylolisthesis affects athletes in sports that require a wide range of movement and flexability. Adolescents may have this condition and not exhibit any symptoms. Whether the condition is a rating of 1 or 5, the patient may exhibit extreme discomfort, lack of mobility, even loss of sensation in an extremity (usually the left leg).
In cases of high levels of discomfort spinal fusion is the best course of treatment. Usually the lower vertebrae is fused to the affected vertabrae (ie. L4 and L5 are the most common to be fused) and held in place with titanium screws and either rods or a plate. The surgery can take 4 hours and is a very painful experience. The spinal fusion can take 6-12 months for recovery. The pain associated with the 1st month of recovery is quite extreme and will require mobility assistance, physical therapy and the use of a walker. It is important to note that no surgical procedure is 100% successful in releaving all of the patients symptoms. This fusion procedure is documented to have an 80% success rate in alleviating all of the patients complaints and symptoms. At these levels most patients and their doctors concur that spinal fusion is the best option and the prognosis is relatively good. If you are considering a spinal fusion or have Spondylolisthesis seek the advice of a orthopedic surgeon.
Spondylolisthesis can cause great discomfort and tends to be brought on by physical accidents – falls, automotive accidents, etc… It can be a preexisting condition but is usually worsened due to the physical accident. Spinal fusion, therapy, and special exercises along with changes in routine can help to alleviate this condition. Spondylolisthesis can be cured and/or treated – early treatment is the key as it can lead to bone degeneration and loss of sensation when left untreated.