Care at CNSO – Understanding Spondylolisthesis


n a normal spine, vertebral bodies are positioned perfectly on top of one another. Healthy discs, facet joints, and ligaments are responsible for maintaining this proper alignment of the bones. However, in certain individuals, the bones do not properly align. When this happens, and a vertebra slides forwards or backwards in relation to the vertebra next to it, the result is a mismatch known as spondylolisthesis.

Spondylolisthesis can cause a great deal of neck or back pain because the involved joints (discs and facets) are unstable, leading to accelerated wear and tear (arthritis of the spine). In addition, the misaligned bones can cause pressure on nearby nerves, leading to radiculopathy, and sciatica.

In general, spondylolisthesis results from the aging process: accumulated wear and tear causes weakening in joints and ligaments that hold the spine together, allowing bones to slip out of normal alignment. Individuals with birth defects or spine injuries are also susceptible to spondylolisthesis. In addition, spondylolisthesis can occur during adolescent development, particularly if the body grows too quickly. Some young athletes can suffer from this condition as constant overstretching and impact cause wear and tear on the spine.

Most cases of spondylolisthesis are without symptoms. Individuals with spondylolisthesis may live their entire lives without knowing they have this condition. When symptoms do occur, they tend to be mild to moderate, and can be treated effectively without surgery. Initial flareups of pain respond well to rest or activity modification. Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation can help to loosen spasmed muscles. Epidural steroid injections are an option for more intense nerve pain. Epidurals have been shown to help alleviate pain and improve function in up to 50% of spondylolisthesis patients. Ultimately, core strengthening exercises will help stabilize the loose spine by building up the surrounding muscles. Surgery is rarely necessary, but very effective at eliminating disabling symptoms, allowing patients with advanced spondylolisthesis to quickly resume their active lifestyles.

When seeking treatment for spondylolisthesis, look for experienced, qualified spine specialists who understand the complexities of diagnosing spine ailments: many of your symptoms, such as pain or tingling, cannot be measured, and may result from common conditions not related to spondylolisthesis. The diagnosis of symptomatic spondylolisthesis can never be made from MRIs alone, because most adults have abnormal findings on MRI even if they do not have symptoms. Beware of providers who offer free MRI reviews.

A spine specialist evaluating your spondylolisthesis must be willing to spend a great deal of time listening to you in order to gather clues about where your symptoms are coming from. He or she must also conduct a detailed physical and neurological examination. It is only then that your spine specialist can make sense of your complicated MRI, with many possible abnormal findings, and determine whether these findings are related to your specific symptoms and signs. This is an important point: If the initial diagnosis is incorrect, all treatment plans will result in failure, even if those treatments are performed well.

Up to 95% of spondylolisthesis patients will return to normal activity without surgery. The body has a remarkable capacity for healing, and the role of your spine specialist is to guide you through this process quickly, and prevent future recurrences of symptoms.

However, for the rare patients who do need injections or surgery to regain normal function, the spine specialists must have a broad range of skills and a proven record of technical mastery to assure optimal results. You owe it to yourself to get treated by the best spine specialists in the field.

NJ’s only Comprehensive Center for Spondylolisthesis: Available near you for evaluation, treatment, and follow up care.

The dedicated team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine, and Orthopedics (CNSO) understands how neck and back problems can impact your daily life. By working with this team of renowned, board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, non-surgical physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists, you will receive comprehensive and coordinated care, so you can quickly resume a healthy, less painful lifestyle free from disability. CNSO offers multiple convenient locations spanning across northern New Jersey, including offices in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex, Hudson, and Sussex Counties. Northern NJ patients can learn more about effectively treating spondylolisthesis by contacting the providers at CNSO today.

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