Spondylolisthesis is a condition that involves the forward or backward displacement of a single vertebra. Symptoms include chronic pain conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and stiffening of the muscles. Posterior pelvic tilt is common among patients as the pelvis must compensate for the reduced motion of the back. Tight hamstrings are also a common effect of restricted back muscles. Due to these muscle imbalances, the gait and posture of patients often become markedly different as the condition progresses. The thoracic spine may sway forward to compensate for postural problems, leading to severe upper back and neck pain. If the displaced vertebra puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, patients may experience numbness and shooting pains in the lower back and leg.
Spondylolisthesis is caused by a variety of problems with the joints of the back. Some people are born with vertebrae that are predisposed to sliding. Fractures and other severe trauma can damage previously healthy spinal columns in such a way that spondylolisthesis develops. The vertebral displacement may also be the result of arthritis or overuse of the spinal cord. Symptoms are much more common among gymnasts and other athletes due to repetitive movements in the lumbar spine.
Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other drugs with anti-inflammatory properties can reduce some of the back and neck pain associated with spondylolisthesis. A pain management doctor can treat the condition by prescribing a physical therapy program that will strengthen the back muscles. Pain management doctors can also use braces to immobilize the area and reduce chronic pain. In many cases, back pain is severe and debilitating enough to require surgery. Surgery typically involves either removing part of the displaced bone or fusing it in place. A more recently developed treatment places an artificial ligament around the spine to increase stability.