What is Spondylolysis & Spondylolisthesis?| Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

Spondylolysis is a stress fracture in one of the vertebrae that make up the spinal column. Spondylolisthesis refers to forward slippage of one spine bone onto another.  Many times, these diseases are seen in combination with each other and treatments are oftentimes the same.

What causes it? 

Doctors have identified six causes of these conditions.

Type I: Birth Defect

Type II: Caused by a pars fracture and instability

Type III: Degeneration due to arthritis

Type IV: Traumatic fracture or injury

Type V: Tumor, cancer, or infection

Type VI:  Postsurgical (iatrogenic bone removal)

Many times athletes will experience these conditions due to their level of activity, whether it be gymnastics, weight lifting, running, football, or other sports that put a lot of pressure or stretching on the lower back. 

How do I know if I have it?

Many times people will have these conditions but not exhibit any symptoms.  Other times, pain will be present, usually across the lower back.  The pain might feel similar to having a strained muscle.  People with spondylolisthesis can often experience spasms that cause the back or hamstrings to stiffen or tighten, making it hard to walk.  If slippage is major, there may be a compression of nerves present that causes a narrowing of the spinal column.  To diagnose it, your doctor will order an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to confirm and determine how severe it is.  Treatment is dependent on severity of pain and the level of nerve compression and slippage.  Chiropractic care, pain medicines, and physical therapy are common ways of treating these conditions, and many times epidural steroid injections are needed for serious pain that is not responding to other treatment options.  If none of the initial treatments are helping, a patient may be a candidate for surgery.

If you’re experiencing these types of symptoms, contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com

You can also view Dr. Cash's Verified Reviews® at www.medrounds.org/Dr_Andrew_Cash or his personal page at www.andrew-cash-md.com.