Like any other spine condition, spondylolisthesis is a diagnosis that most people would like to prevent if at all possible. Although not always painful, especially in less severe cases, spondylolisthesis can be a source of back pain, spinal instability and mobility problems for the people it affects. It isn’t possible to completely prevent spondylolisthesis from developing, but one of the best steps anyone can take is to practice a lifestyle that promotes and maintains a healthy spine.
By learning about the causes and symptoms of spondylolisthesis, as well as practical tips for keeping a healthy spine, you can lower your chances of dealing with this condition — or limiting its progress if you have been diagnosed.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition where one of the vertebrae in the spinal column begins to slip out over the one beneath it. This can cause instability in the spine as well as pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. Spondylolisthesis usually happens in the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine due to the constant stress this area undergoes every day.
Spondylolisthesis is usually graded on a scale of one to five, depending on the level of severity. Level one represents minor slippage, while level five is almost total slippage and vertebral displacement.
Understanding the Causes of Spondylolisthesis
There are multiple types of spondylolisthesis, and each type is generally related to an underlying cause. The most common types and causes of spondylolisthesis include:
- Degenerative spondylolisthesis: Caused by age-related breakdown of the spinal discs and connective tissue.
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis: Usually develops as a result of a fracture in the spinal joint that causes the vertebral slippage.
- Congenital spondylolisthesis: Is vertebral slippage related to a birth defect in the spine that causes a misalignment.
Other causes of spondylolisthesis can include traumatic injury, conditions such as osteoporosis, tumors and postsurgical complications.
Symptoms can vary depending on the severity and cause of spondylolisthesis, but can include:
- Lower back pain
- Stiffness and limited mobility
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Neuropathic symptoms, including tingling and numbness in the feet and toes
Anyone experiencing possible symptoms of spondylolisthesis for more than a few days to a week at the most should see a doctor or pain management specialist for immediate diagnosis and treatment. Spondylolisthesis is a progressive condition and preventing it from worsening requires a proactive approach that includes following recommended treatments and committing to a spine healthy lifestyle.
Four Tips for Maintaining Spine Health to Prevent or Manage Spondylolisthesis
There is no way to completely prevent the development of spondylolisthesis. Factors such as aging, genetics and birth defects all contribute to this condition regardless of other steps that are taken. The best thing anyone can do to prevent spondylolisthesis or prevent the condition from progressing is to take steps that increase overall spine health and slow down natural degeneration as much as possible.
Here are four practical tips for a spine healthy lifestyle:
1. Exercise regularly to increase flexibility and strengthen supporting muscles
One of the biggest contributors to spine conditions including spondylolisthesis is a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise, including a mixture of cardiovascular exercise and strength training, can help strengthen the muscles and connective tissue that hold up the spine. This in turn decreases stress on the vertebrae, discs and joints, which can potentially slow the degeneration that can lead to vertebral slippage and other conditions such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease. Even something as simple as 20 minutes of walking, gentle stretching and planking a few times a week can make a huge difference.
2. Eat a healthy diet
The food we eat has a big impact on spine health. For example, a diet high in processed foods, saturated fats and sugar can increase inflammation while decreasing bone and muscle health. In contrast, eating a diet rich in whole grains, leafy green vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and unsaturated fats are associated with a reduced inflammatory response, stronger muscles and more durable bones all of which can help reduce the risk of spondylolisthesis and other spine conditions. It is also essential to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated while minimizing intake of sugary beverages and alcohol.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Carrying extra weight adds to the stress on the spine. Even losing just a few pounds can make a difference on the pressure that is put on the discs, joints and vertebrae in the spinal column. Reducing calorie intake, eating a nutrient rich, whole food diet and getting regular exercise can all work together to help anyone achieve a weight loss plan. This in turn can promote a more stable spine that is less prone to spondylolisthesis and other spinal problems.
4. Practice good posture and ergonomics
Reducing stress and wear and tear on the spine is something that can be done throughout the day to help prevent or manage spondylolisthesis. Practicing good posture while standing and sitting helps to even out pressure and minimize the impact on individual areas of the spine. While at work, be mindful of your spine while performing any repetitive physical movements and always lift with your legs. You can also work on spine health while sleeping by using a supportive mattress and pillow and getting a good night’s sleep each night.
Contact PPOA to Learn More About Spondylolisthesis Prevention and Treatment
If diagnosed, spondylolisthesis is usually treatable with conservative therapies including rest, over-the-counter medication, physical therapy and interventional pain management steps such as anti-inflammatory injections or nerve blocks. Surgery can become an option if conservative therapies are not effective for managing symptoms or for severe grades of spondylolisthesis.
No matter where you are on your therapeutic journey for spondylolisthesis, Physician Partners of America (PPOA) can help. From prevention to interventional pain management to minimally invasive spine surgery, our caring experts will assist you in developing a personalized plan that fits your needs, treatment goals and lifestyle. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your appointment.