Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra from the lower spine slips out of position. The condition is the same as a slipped disc, which is when one of the spinal discs between the vertebrae ruptures. Spondylolisthesis tends not to be progressive in adulthood, in other words the slip does not get worse.
Spondylolisthesis is relatively common disorder. It tends to affect about six percent of the population and usually occurs during adolescence as the spine is maturing. It tends to occur in athletic individuals who put the spine through a great deal of stress during formative years. The condition tends to come to light early in middle age once the disc start to degenerate and the cushioning effect of a young disc is lost. Spondylolisthesis is diagnosed most commonly on a plain x-ray.
Another common form of spondylolithesis is in association with a worn and degenerate disc which has collapsed allowing the vertebra above to slip over the vertebra below.
As in most spinal disorders, initial treatment is physical therapy from a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath. The idea of treatment for this condition, rather like spinal instability is to strengthen the spine to take over the role of the damaged area by producing a muscle corset. This rehabilitation is of similar intensity to spinal instability. If this fails then the non-operative pain control form of injections are the next available option. They can also be used in conjunction with further rehabilitation.
The final option would be surgery and this would be in the form of a spinal fusion to fuse the area where the spondylolisthesis has occurred onto a stable section of the spine. The extent of this very much depends upon the level of degenerative disc disease above and below the spondylolisthesis.