What Is Spondylolisthesis And How Is It Treated?
So…you’ve just been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. A condition you’ve probably never heard of until now, and the official medical name for ongoing back pain, muscle tightness, pain in the buttocks, tightness in the hamstrings, and pain worsened by walking or activity, or even difficulty standing. Now what? And should you be concerned?
On the brighter side, a correct diagnosis means that you’re closer to healing. And, the first step to a full recovery from any injury or ailment is to understand the root of the problem.
That said, as another step forward in your healing process, let’s dive into spondylolisthesis, to better understand the nuances of this injury, as well as the most effective paths for full-recovery treatment.
Spondylolisthesis – What Is It?
In short, spondylolisthesis is instability in your spine. Your spine is made up of stacked vertebrae that work together to give your entire body stability and mobility. Spondylolisthesis happens when one of your vertebrae slips out of place and rests on the bone below it, putting excess pressure on this bone. When this structure is compromised, it (understandably) causes pain and achiness in your lower back. Ouch.
Sometimes, traumatic injury can force a vertebrae to slip, but it’s commonly caused by wear and tear with age. Over time, the small cushions that pad our vertebrae (called discs) lose the water that keeps them in place. As we age, these discs thin out and it becomes easier for our vertebrae to slip out of place.
The Do’s And Don’ts Of Effective At-Home Treatment
Fortunately, most cases of spondylolisthesis respond very well to conservative care. As you begin your healing journey, it’s just as important (perhaps even more so!) to understand what not to do as well as what to do.
Do NOT: Aggravate Symptoms Further
First off, it’s good to identify what movement patterns could make your injury worse and potentially cause more harm over time. Though most cases of spondylolisthesis respond very well to conservative care, if you let this condition go untreated or progress in severity, surgical intervention is sometimes needed. Don’t let it get to this point!
In that spirit, if you’ve been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, be sure to avoid any activities that place significant stress through your lower back. This includes lifting heavy objects, high-impact sports like gymnastics and football, and any excessive bending or twisting of the back.
When in doubt, use common sense: if an activity causes a sudden spike in pain or discomfort, stop immediately. Remember that rest can be a powerful healing tool, and sometimes by deciding not to do a particular activity, you are in fact still actively contributing positively to your healing process.
Do: Mobilize, And Gently Strengthen Your Abdomen And Back Muscles
As you look to give your lower back the treatment it needs to heal fully, you want to make sure that you’re supporting your body to the best of your ability. This includes giving your spine an appropriate amount of mobility. Though you don’t want to engage in any exercises that aggravate your pain, keeping some movement is important to keep from becoming too stiff. For some relatively safe mobility, try getting in a pool and walking around at chest depth; it may seem simple, but the therapeutic qualities of the water can both help alleviate some of the discomfort you may be feeling as well as provide a safe place for you to move without the full impact of land activity.
Another part of supporting your system through your healing journey means strengthening your structure to better support your spine, namely strengthening the abdomen and back areas. The following are great exercises to incorporate into your day-to-day routine.
The pelvic tilt is a great exercise to start with as it helps to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles without over-exerting your body. To perform this exercise, lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and push your lower back flat on the floor, hold this position for 10-15 seconds, and then relax.
Repeat up to 10 times, several times daily.
As you get a bit more comfortable with pelvic tilts, you can progress to a dead bug exercise. Begin on your back with your arms extended up straight from your shoulders and your legs bent at 90 degrees, and your knees lifted up over your hips. Engage your core muscles, keeping your lower back pressed to the ground, and slowly drop your right arm overhead while extending your left leg out at the same time. Hover each just above the ground for 1-2 seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat on the other side. You should feel your core muscles engaged, helping to stabilize you as you perform slow, smooth motions throughout this exercise.
Repeat this exercise 5-8 times on each side.
Chiropractic Support For Spondylolisthesis
In your journey back to full health, chiropractic care is a fantastic, safe, and natural treatment regime for addressing spondylolisthesis. Chiropractic care utilizes gentle adjustments of the spine and extremities to realign your body. These gentle adjustments help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and allow actual healing to take place. These adjustments are effective at treating cases of spondylolisthesis in particular because they address misalignments of the spine directly– the cause of much of the pain that stems from this diagnosis.
Additionally, your practitioner may recommend other exercises or modalities to perform outside of appointment times, in order to help expedite your healing process along. By working consistent chiropractic care into your rehabilitation routine, you could cut down on your healing time and increase your overall quality of life. That’s a huge win-win.
Don’t neglect your back health any longer.
Schedule an appointment online or call (256) 333-9429.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.