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Spondylolysis - Spondylolisthesis

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Spondylolisthesis related image Photo: Getty Images

A family friend I met after a long gap told me he is suffering from spondylolisthesis. He had a back brace along with a neck brace on him. It looked like he was in constant pain. According to him he is not able to even stand properly if he doesn't wear the braces. He is going through physical therapy and is on anti-inflammatory medications every day for almost two years now. He is waiting to be operated on his back soon.

The most common cause of spondylolysis is lower back pain for most people. This problem is mostly seen in young adults who are physically active. Some people carry it throughout their lives even after quitting physical activities. Spondylolysis is a stress fracture of the vertebrae affecting the fifth lumbar spine. Rarely it affects the fourth lumbar spine too. The stress fracture due to physical activities such as running, playing football or basketball, gymnastics, etc., and it weakens the bones over the years. Because of the improper positions the shifting or slippage of the vertebra occurs. This shifting or slippage of the vertebrae is called spondylolisthesis. Sometimes excess slippage of the vertebra could result in surgical intervention.

Spondylolysis can be caused by several reasons among which genetics and over use during physical activities are the foremost. It usually starts as pain in the lower back and can mimic muscle strain. It can stiffen back muscles and change the posture. This changing of the posture could lead to stiffness in hamstring muscles which in turn lead to more problems with posture. If not taken care of early enough the pain could result in slippage of the vertebral spine leading to compression of the nerves and narrowing of the spinal cord.

Diagnosis of this condition is usually done best by X-rays of the back. If the condition worsens a CT or an MRI might be needed for further diagnosis and a treatment plan. Most of the treatment plans are non-interventional for spondylolysis unless it is severe. The treatment includes:
1. taking anti-inflammatory medications
2. taking a break from any physical activities
3. wearing a back brace
4. physical therapy
5. light stretching

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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