Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition characterized by slipping of one vertebrae compared to the next. A forward slip is known as an anterolisthesis and a backward slip is called a retrolisthesis. Commonly, a spondylolisthesis can cause low back pain or leg pain due to narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the exiting spinal nerves.
Symptoms are typically aggravated by extension based activities which put further stress through the injured area. Examples include; prolonged standing, walking, running and repeated arching of the spine. Severe cases can result in leg numbness and weakness due to compression of the spinal cord.
Repetitive trauma to the spine is a common cause of spondylolisthesis, especially in gymnasts who regularly perform hyper-extension movements. Degeneration of the spine can be another cause due to arthritic changes that occur with ageing. Defects within the vertebrae such as tumours can also cause spondylolisthesis.
Spondylolisthesis is diagnosed by a spinal x-ray, in particular a lateral view. Severity can be graded according to the degree of slip compared to the neighbouring vertebra.
Grade 1 – slip up to 25%
Grade 2 – 26-50%
Grade 3 – 51-75%
Grade 4 – 76-100%
Grade 5 – or spondyloptosis occurs when the vertebra completely slips off the next.
Treatment consists of avoidance of aggravating activities, a period of rest from sport, physiotherapy and in some instances bracing. Research has shown that physiotherapy based on low abdominal muscle re-training and strengthening with a functional approach to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with spondylolisthesis.
Epidural injections(steroid based spinal injection) can be helpful in cases where severe leg pain and paraesthesia (tingling, numbness) are the main complaint. Severe cases may require surgery.
All Physica staff have received additional training in diagnosing and managing patients presenting with spondylolisthesis. We will assess your spinal function and devise a specific program to return you to sport, work and full capacity.