Spondylolisthesis is a medical condition that occurs when one of the vertebrae bones in the spine slips out of place. This is usually the result of instability in the spine, which may allow the vertebrae to move more than they should.
Sometimes, the slipped vertebrae lands on the vertebrae bone below it. If the slipped vertebra presses on a nerve, it could cause chronic pain to develop.
What causes spondylolisthesis?
There are six primary types of spondylolistheses and each one is identified by what causes it.
- Congenital spondylolistheses – Occurs when a baby’s spine does not develop correctly while in the womb. This misalignment can increase the likelihood of a vertebrae slip later in life.
- Isthmic spondylolistheses – Occurs when a vertebrae bone suffers a fracture (a condition called spondylolysis). The fracture can weaken the bone and allow the vertebrae to slip.
- Degenerative spondylolistheses – Occurs with age, as the cushiony discs between the vertebrae naturally lose water and dry out. As the discs grow thinner and weaker, it becomes more likely that a vertebrae bone can slip out of place. This is the most common form of spondylolistheses.
- Traumatic spondylolistheses – Occurs when an injury causes a vertebrae to slip out of place.
- Pathological spondylolistheses – Occurs when another medical condition weakens the spine, allowing a vertebrae to slip.
- Pathological spondylolistheses – Occurs when a vertebrae slips out of place as a result of spine surgery.
What are symptoms of spondylolisthesis?
In many cases, spondylolistheses does not cause any symptoms at all and you may not even know you have it. When symptoms do present themselves, you may experience
- Lower (lumbar) back pain or stiffness
- Pain in the buttocks
- Pain that radiates down the legs
- Muscle spasms in the hamstrings
- Difficulty standing for walking
These symptoms are usually made worse by activity.
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