Understanding Spondylolisthesis and How to Prevent It


Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when one of the spinal vertebra slips out of place and onto the vertebra below it. Those who are most likely to suffer from spondylolisthesis include those who are over the age of 50, athletes who participate in sports, like football and gymnastics, that stretch the lower spine, and those that have genetic structural differences in their spine.

While not everyone who suffers from spondylolisthesis shows symptoms, the condition is most commonly associated with lower back pain. Reach out to Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery if you have any symptoms of spondylolisthesis, and we can answer any questions you may have.

How Spondylolisthesis is Caused

When spondylolisthesis appears in a younger person, it is most likely caused by overextension of the spine during athletics. Many young people are more prone to the condition as a result of a genetic condition that causes them to have thinner vertebral bones.

In older adults, spondylolisthesis is most commonly associated with abnormal wear and tear that is placed on the spinal vertebrae as a result of conditions such as arthritis. Spondylolisthesis generally impacts women more frequently than men. The condition can also result from disc slippage after surgery has been performed on the lower spine.

How Is Spondylolisthesis Treated?

There are a number of factors that must be considered when determining how to treat spondylolisthesis, such as the overall health of the patient, the severity of the symptoms, and the grade of the disc slippage. Often, non-surgical treatments are pursued first, which can include limiting sports activities in young patients, suggesting over-the-counter or prescription medications for pain, steroid injections in the affected area, physical therapy, or use of a back brace.

If these treatments fail to relieve the discomfort associated with the condition, surgery can be performed in order to restore stability to the spine and ultimately return function to the patient. This surgery often entails decompression and can also include fusing the affected vertebrae together so that they heal as one bone. Generally, this will allow the patient to begin gradually increasing their activities and regaining full function.

What You Can Do to Prevent Spondylolisthesis

In spite of the fact that many cases of spondylolisthesis, particularly when it occurs in younger patients, are caused by athletic participation, exercise is one of the best ways not only to prevent the condition but also to treat it. Sufferers of spondylolisthesis should avoid certain sports and activities that strain the lower back, such as heavy weightlifting and certain core exercises. Also, activities that require twisting the lower back, such as jumping on a trampoline, should also be avoided.

Exercises that have been found to both relieve the pain associated with the condition or help prevent it from occurring include:

  • Pelvic tilts, in which the patient lies on their back with their knees bent and their feet on the floor. The belly button is pulled toward the spine, straightening the back, and the position is held for 15 seconds. Repeat the exercise 5-10 times.
  • Dead bug, which is a similar position to the pelvic tilt, but with one leg lifted off the floor.
  • Side planks, in which the individual lies on their side, using a forearm to prop themselves up with legs, hips, and shoulders level. The position should be held for 15 seconds.
  • Gluteal stretches, which involve the individual lying on their back with knees bent. The right ankle is then placed on the left knee and the individual wraps their arms around their thigh to pull it to their chest.
  • Knee to chest exercises, in which the individual lies on their back with their knees bent and their core muscles engaged and pulls one knee up to their chest. 
  • Quadruped arm raise, in which the individual is again on their back with core muscles engaged while raising one arm and the opposite leg and holding the position for 15 seconds. This is then repeated using the other arm and leg.

In addition to exercising and stretching regularly to increase the strength of the back and supporting muscles, maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding the stress that extra weight places on the back is important in preventing this condition. 

The surgery that is sometimes required to treat this condition has a high rate of success, and many people do not see the return of the condition once it has been repaired. It is important to understand, however, that the more severe the condition was before surgery was performed, the higher the risk of recurrence. Your doctor will recommend regular check-ups in addition to physical therapy and other activities that can help increase your chance of surgical success.

If You’re Experiencing the Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis, Contact OLSS Today

The experienced medical staff at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery know that suffering lingering back pain is an intense and often frightening situation. We are committed to providing quality treatment for our patients, and that begins by working to put them at ease and answer the questions they have about their condition. We strive to not only diagnose the condition but to also partner with the patient in order to develop a treatment plan that works for them. 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of spondylolisthesis, our team is ready to begin helping you repair your life and reduce pain. To schedule a consultation, call us at (855) 853-6542 or reach out to us through our online contact form.