Spondylolisthesis is a condition characterized by vertebrae drifting forward and is one of the possible causes of lower back pain. 

Anti-inflammatory drugs and specific exercises can help but should be prescribed following evaluation by a spine specialist. When the disease is acute, gymnastics is discouraged as it could worsen the situation. 

What to do, then, when lower back pain increases? 

Spondylolisthesis: Symptoms

When suffering from low back pain, the first thing to do is not to give in to the temptation of self-diagnosis but to go to the orthopedic specialist to evaluate the problem. 

Recognizing the cause of lumbar back pain, in fact, is crucial to defining the suitable therapies and activities for each patient. 

In the case of spondylolisthesis, the vertebrae of the lumbar area, especially the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae (referred to as L4 and L5) “slide” slowly and progressively forward from the underlying vertebra. Low back pain can appear over time, especially in the case of degenerative discopathy, which worsens when the patient stands for long periods or exerts physical effort. 

If not diagnosed and treated in time, spondylolisthesis can cause chronic pain and sciatica, negatively affecting the patient’s mobility and quality of life. Suppose the cause of low back pain is spondylolisthesis when the pain is most acute. In that case, absolute rest is appropriate until the pain resolves, avoiding overloading the spine to minimize the inflammatory stimulus.

Spondylolisthesis: How to treat it

Spondylolisthesis causes arthritic degeneration of the lumbar vertebrae, or a kind of “accelerated” wear and tear of the spine, which can have several causes: Trauma to the spine, degeneration of the joints between the vertebrae, infection, or can simply be congenital. 

Low back pain can vary in magnitude, depending on several factors, and is not directly proportional to the extent of vertebral slippage. Sometimes, the patient experiences no pain, and spondylolisthesis is diagnosed after radiological investigations for other reasons. 

Treatment depends on the symptoms and pain: Usually rest, analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapies (Tecar ultrasound), physiotherapy, and, in some cases, a back brace are prescribed.  

If the pain does not go away or increases, vertebral arthrodesis surgery may be considered, which consists of stabilizing the olisthetic vertebra with the adjacent vertebra to prevent the progression of the slippage and resolve the instability created by the spondylolisthesis.