How Doctors Treat Spondylolisthesis

Written by Howard S. An, MD

Non-Surgical Treatment
If the spondylolisthesis is non-progressive, no treatment except observation is required. Symptoms often abate once precipitating activities cease. Conservative treatment includes 2 or 3 days of bed rest, restriction of activities causing stress to the lumbar spine (e.g. heavy lifting, stooping), physical therapy, anti-inflammatory and pain reducing medications, and/or a corset or brace.A physician may prescribe a custom-made corset or brace. These are made by an orthotist, a professional who takes the patient's precise body measurements, which may include making a cast from which the molded orthoses is made.

Spine Surgery
Surgical intervention is considered when neurologic involvement exists or conservative treatment has failed to provide relief from long-term back pain and other symptoms associated with spondylolisthesis.

A spine surgeon decides which surgical procedure and approach (anterior/posterior, front or back) is best for the patient. His decisions are based on the patient's medical history, symptoms, radiographic findings, as well as the grade and angle of the vertebral slip. A variety of surgical treatment options are utilized. You should discuss what is best for your condition with your spine surgeon.

Whether the treatment course is conservative or surgical, it is important to closely follow the instructions of your physician and/or physical therapist.

Avoid heavy lifting, stooping, or certain sports such as football or high impact exercise (i.e. running, aerobics). Any doubts concerning vocational and recreational restrictions should be discussed with your physician and/or physical therapist. They will be able to suggest safe alternatives to help reduce the risk of further back problems.

Keep your weight close to ideal, continue to follow the exercise program designed by your physical therapist at home, learn how to pick up things off the floor correctly, as well as other 'safe' movements.

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What is Spondylolisthesis