Common Spine Issues

Spondylolisthesis and Spinal Instability

Spondylolysis is a fracture in the vertebrae, usually where the lower (lumbar) part of the spine joins the tailbone (sacrum). This occurs naturally in around 5% of the adult population, and does not always cause problems. Spondylolisthesis is when the cracked vertebrae slips over the vertebrae below it, causing spinal instability, leading to pain or discomfort. To diagnose spondylolisthesis, physicians use various imaging techniques, including x-ray, and possibly an MRI or CT scan.

Conservative treatment is usually the first choice, with anti-inflammatory and pain medications, plus rest. Physical therapy may improve strength and flexibility, and learning how to perform activities of daily living in a modified way can help decrease the pain as well. If conservative measures don’t work, a physician may recommend surgery, including a decompression and fusion.

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