Spondylolisthesis involves the forward slippage of a vertebra in the spinal column. Developmental varieties of the disease can occur from birth or early childhood, but we shall be focusing on acquired spondylolisthesis which is commonly associated with sporting activities that place repeated stress on the spine.
The condition is often asymptomatic, resulting in a lack of diagnosis until the injured party takes an x-ray for a potentially unrelated problem. Nevertheless there are symptoms that you may experience, primarily tightness of the hamstring, a diminished control over your bowel or bladder, pains in your lower back following physical training, or shooting pains in the upper leg and buttock region. You may also suffer from lordosis, meaning excessive inward curving of the spine resulting in an overarched posture. If the spondylolisthesis has become particularly advanced then you might begin to walk with an unnatural sway due to extreme rigidity in the back.
Acquired spondylolisthesis is thought to present more regularly in people who participate in intense physical activities, such as gymnastics, football and weightlifting. With the amount of force applied to the spinal column in sports like these, partaking habitually in such activities can cause deterioration of the spine and specifically the connections between vertebrae. This may happen over time with continual wear and tear, or be the particular result of repeated impact to the spine consistent with a certain move or technique used in a sport.
It is important to consult with a doctor, who may refer you to a spinal specialist. They grade spondylolisthesis from 1 to 5 in terms of seriousness and damage to the vertebrae, and will be able to recommend the correct treatment for you. The condition afflicts an estimated 5% of people and most never need treatment as they experience no symptoms and have a stable form of the injury which will not worsen. However, you should limit the kinds of activities that put inordinate pressure on the spine, especially if experiencing pain or other symptoms.
A doctor may recommend physical therapy and will be able to discuss the sports you are involved with, if necessary suggesting suitable replacement activities with less risk of spinal impact such as swimming and walking. They might prescribe pain or inflammation medication, and depending on the individual and the severity of the condition a brace or corset can be used to supply additional support to the spine. In extreme cases surgery may be required, but this is only when all other measures have failed to alleviate your symptoms. If a medical professional recommends surgery, always make sure that you understand and concur with the reasoning behind the decision.
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