Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that results in one vertebra slipping forward over the one beneath it. It typically affects the lower back, also known as the lumbar spine. Spondylolisthesis can cause a variety of symptoms, including back pain, leg pain, and numbness or weakness in the legs. In this article, we will focus on how spondylolisthesis can cause back pain.
The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, which are stacked one on top of the other to form the spinal column. The spinal column is responsible for supporting the weight of the upper body and protecting the spinal cord. Each vertebra has a bony structure called the vertebral body that provides support and stability. The vertebral bodies are separated by small cushions called intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the vertebral bodies slips out of position and slides forward over the one beneath it. This can happen for a number of reasons, including:
Congenital defect: Some people are born with a defect in the vertebrae that makes them more likely to slip out of position.
Trauma: A sudden injury, such as a fall or car accident, can cause a vertebra to slip out of place.
Degenerative changes: As we age, the intervertebral discs can wear down and the ligaments that hold the vertebrae in place can become weak. This can lead to spondylolisthesis.
Repetitive stress: Certain activities, such as weightlifting or gymnastics, can put repeated stress on the spine and increase the risk of spondylolisthesis.
When a vertebra slips out of position, it can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that branch out from it. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including back pain. The severity of the pain can vary depending on the degree of slippage and the location of the affected vertebra.
In spondylolisthesis, the vertebrae in the lumbar spine are most commonly affected. The lower back is responsible for supporting most of the body's weight and is therefore more prone to injury. When a vertebra slips forward in the lumbar spine, it can put pressure on the intervertebral discs, which can cause them to bulge or herniate. This can lead to inflammation and irritation of the nerves in the area, which can cause back pain.
The pain caused by spondylolisthesis can be a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain. It is typically felt in the lower back, but it can also radiate to the buttocks, thighs, and legs. The pain may be worse with activity, such as standing or walking, and may be relieved by rest.
In addition to back pain, spondylolisthesis can cause other symptoms, including:
Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
Weakness in the legs
Difficulty walking or standing for long periods
Loss of bladder or bowel control (in severe cases)
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation. Spondylolisthesis can be diagnosed with a physical exam, imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans, and nerve conduction studies.
Treatment for spondylolisthesis depends on the severity of the condition and the degree of slippage. Mild cases may be treated with rest, physical therapy (osteopathy) , and pain medication. More severe cases may require surgery to stabilise the spine and relieve pressure on the nerves.