Spondylolisthesis is a condition where a bone of the vertebral column, usually in the lower back, slips over the next vertebra.
The vertebral column or backbone is made up of several individual bones called vertebrae. Each vertebra is stacked on the next, with a disc called the intervertebral disc between the two. A condition in which the disc moves out of its position is called disc prolapse. When a whole vertebra slips out of its position, either forwards or backwards, the condition is called spondylolisthesis.
The vertebral column houses the spinal cord. Nerves from the spinal cord exit the vertebral column though small openings between the adjacent vertebrae. Thus, spondylolisthesis could cause compression of the exiting nerve roots resulting in mild-to-severe pain and other nerve-related symptoms.
There are a number of causes of spondylolisthesis. Some cases may be due to a problem present from birth, whereas in other cases it may be due to some cause appearing later in life. These causes include age-related degenerative changes, trauma and damage to the spinal column due to diseases like cancer.
The most common symptom of spondylolisthesis is lower back pain. In cases where the nerves are compressed, the patient may suffer from pain along the distribution of the nerve, and in some cases, weakness or paralysis of the legs. Surgery is recommended to treat such extreme conditions.
Spondylolisthesis is diagnosed by taking an X-ray of the lower back. Other imaging tests like CT and MRI are also used for a more accurate diagnosis.
Treatment of spondylolisthesis depends upon the severity of the condition. Milder conditions can be treated with physiotherapy, while surgery is recommended for extreme conditions.