How Do I Know if I Have The Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis symptoms often vary according to the degree of the slip and the location of the affected vertebra. Anything above a 50% slip is likely to produce severe symptoms and require surgery. (Incidentally, anything below a 50% slip isn’t particularly fun either… But, in rare cases, a patient may be asymptomatic. This is more likely to be true if the slipped vertebra occurs in the thoracic spine.)

What are the Major Types of Spondylolisthesis?

We can break spondylolisthesis down into different types according to spinal region, grade of severity, or cause… But, knowing the source of the disorder provides us with the most information. The 4 main types of spondylolisthesis include:

  • Dysplastic Spondylolisthesis: This occurs when a congenital deformity in the facet joints causes the back side of the spine to degenerate, weakening the points of attachment that hold each vertebrae into place. Your facet joints are points of articulation on the back side of the spine where two vertebrae meet to create movement. If a facet joint becomes fragile, then a slight twist in the wrong direction can jolt the spine out of alignment.
  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis: This disorder arises when a defect in the pars interarticularis leads to a stress fracture in the vertebra. Doctors refer to this condition as spondylolysis, which literally means “bone rupture.” Your pars interarticularis is a delicate ribbon of bone that connects your facet joints together. The weakest part of your spine, the pars often snaps during childhood when we are at our most physically active. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems in adulthood, like a slipped vertebra.
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis: This condition often appears after years of wear and tear have taken their toll on the spine. When the facet joints are healthy, they allow for a moderate level of spinal flexibility. However, as the facet joints become weak from age or overuse, they can become too flexibleor “hypermobile.” This excess movement can lead to a slipped vertebra. Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease only serve to speed this process.
  • Traumatic Spondylolisthesis: As the name suggests, traumatic spondylolisthesis occurs when an injury such as a spinal fracture causes the vertebrae to slip. Trauma to the facet joints, pedicles, laminae, or vertebral body can easily accomplish this.

What are the Minor Types of Spondylolisthesis?

Less common types of spondylolisthesis also include:

  • Pathologic Spondylolisthesis: This refers to a form of spondylolisthesis that was caused by an underlying disease. For example, spinal tumors, osteoporosis, and osteogenesis imperfecta can all encourage this vertebral slippage.
  • Iatrogenic Spondylolisthesis: This form of spondylolisthesis results from a surgical error or complication. In particular, this can occur following a decompressive procedure known as a laminectomy. If the surgeon failed to take additional measures to reinforce the spine after removing the lamina–the bony casing that houses the spinal cord–then the vertebrae can become unstable and slip.
    In addition, your doctor may classify your condition as cervical, thoracic, or lumbar. However, slipped vertebrae occur most often in the weight-bearing lower back, or lumbar spine. Cervical and thoracic dislocations are not unheard of… but they are relatively rare in comparison.

How Dr. Lowenstein Can Help

Diagnosis of spondylolisthesis usually requires the patient to undergo an x-ray or MRI. Once your doctor has pinpointed the precise cause of your pain, you will likely begin a round of conservative treatments, like pain management or physical therapy.

Not every patient will be a candidate for conservative treatments, however. If you have severe spinal stenosis, spinal instability, or fractures, then you may need to undergo surgery right away. Traumatic kyphosis, for example, occurs when the spine becomes so unstable from spondylolisthesis that the torso begins to slump forward. This condition is often dangerous, requiring immediate attention to spare the spine from further damage.

When it comes to spondylolisthesis, receiving the right treatment at the right time is key to your recovery. Dr. Jason Lowenstein, MD has earned over a decade of award-winning experience in resolving spinal deformities, like spondylolisthesis and traumatic kyphosis. You can trust Dr. Lowenstein’s superior skills and compassionate bedside manner to help you navigate your recovery process!