Spondylolisthesis affects many adults across the world, from young adults to those over 50. This can result in lower back pain, a lack of mobility, and a range of other unwanted symptoms.
Fortunately, medical advancements mean there are a number of spondylolisthesis treatments available to help alleviate the symptoms of Spondylolisthesis, and even surgery that can help cure the condition permanently. Below, we will discuss what to do to relieve Spondylolisthesis pain, from treatments, surgery, and changes to your lifestyle.
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What is Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when one of the bones (vertebrae) in your spine slips out of place and applies pressure to your spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This can cause pain in your lower back and the top of your legs, as well as a number of other symptoms that cause discomfort.
Spondylolisthesis can occur in any part of the spine but is most common in the lower back. It is different from a slipped disc or Spondylosis.
Why does Spondylolisthesis Cause Pain?
The pain is the result of pressure being placed on your nerves or spinal cord. Any pressure on the nerves, wherever it may be in the body, can cause pain that can range from moderate to severe. However, Spondylolisthesis does not always result in pain or noticeable symptoms, and many people have the condition without ever realizing it.
What are the Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis symptoms can range in severity but generally include:
- Lower back pain – This pain is often amplified when standing or walking for long periods of time. Relief is often provided by sitting or leaning forward.
- This pain can often spread to your posterior, hamstrings, or thighs.
- You may experience a tingling sensation, numbness, or pain down one of your legs. This condition is known as sciatica and is linked to Spondylolisthesis.
- Tingling sensation or weakness in the feet.
Other Lower Back Conditions That You Should Be Aware Of
Other back conditions that may require medical treatment or surgery include Spondylosis, Spinal Stenosis, Lumbar Herniated Disc, Sciatica, Sacroiliac Joint Pain, and Degenerative Disc Disease.
There is a wide range of treatments for Spondylolisthesis, but whether a doctor prescribes a specific treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the amount of pain a patient is experiencing.
The most common treatments include:
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Ibuprofen, stronger prescription painkillers, and steroid injections directly into the back.
- Neuropathic agents are a form of medication that target nerve pain directly and can prevent symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness. Two of the most common types of neuropathic agents are Gabapentin and pregabalin (Lyrica).
- Muscle relaxants can help prevent spasms in a patient’s back, reducing pain. Relaxants can include Flexeril, Soma, Baclofen, Tizanidine, and Robaxin
- Physiotherapy with the aim to strengthen and stretch the muscles in the lower back, around the abdomen, and in the legs. This can help strengthen the back overall, improve mobility, and reduce pain levels.
Your doctor may often refer you to a physiotherapist directly, or you may decide to choose one for yourself.
What Lifestyle Changes Can You Make to Relieve Pain Caused by Spondylolisthesis?
As well as treatments prescribed by a medical professional, there are also changes you can make to your everyday lifestyle to ensure your pain levels decrease and you can lead a more active lifestyle.
Lifestyle changes that can be made to relieve Spondylolisthesis pain include:
- Avoid sports and exercises that put too much strain on your back. Particularly activities that involve a lot of heavy lifting, bending, twists, and turns.
Your doctor would likely recommend that you avoid sports such as; weight lifting, athletics, gymnastics, soccer, football, some martial arts, and some forms of dancing.
- Try gentle exercises to maintain motion in your back and keep yourself healthy. Activities you can do that are not overly strenuous or could worsen your Spondylolisthesis are recreational swimming, cycling, chair yoga, and walking.
- Eat better! Eating a lot of sugar, refined carbs (flour), and processed foods can lead to increased inflammation and pain. To avoid this inflammation, you should try to switch up your diet, including food that is low in calories and high in micronutrients.
Avoid red meat, simple carbohydrates, dairy products, and eggs.
Eat more fish (particularly wild salmon), vegetables, skinless chicken, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado.
- Manage stress levels, as this triggers hormones that cause your muscles to tighten up, aggravating the pain in your back.
- Ensure you are getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep can result in higher stress levels, and lower pain tolerance, in addition to worsening existing symptoms.
If you have made significant lifestyle changes and followed the above advice, and you have exhausted all treatment avenues, then your next step is to consider surgery. Successful surgery can cure your symptoms permanently; however, surgery does not come without risk, and some forms can result in problems.
Spinal Fusion and Spinal Decompression are the most traditional forms of surgery to cure back conditions. Spinal Decompression usually comes in the form of a laminectomy (the removal of the lamina), and this is generally followed by spinal fusion to provide more stability to the spinal column.
The main downside to this form of surgery is that fusion can limit movement in the back, making it hard to perform certain motions and impacting your quality of life. Because of this, many doctors are now recommending a TOPS System as a modern alternative.