Conservative Spondylolisthesis Treatment
Spondylolisthesis treatment is designed to alleviate symptoms associated with the slippage of one vertebra over another. In most cases, surgery is not necessary. In fact, only about one in five spondylolisthesis patients require surgery, and most of that group have developed the condition either because of a congenital defect or traumatic injury. There are a number of conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods that, when used together, should be able to provide short-term and long-term relief.
Trial and Error
Chances are, more than one conservative spondylolisthesis treatment method will be required to achieve sustained relief from pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, or stiffness caused by vertebral slippage. In fact, because no two cases are alike, it may require a period of trial and error to formulate the right treatment plan. In general, conservative methods that tend to work include:
- Activity modification - avoiding behaviors that may exacerbate symptoms can reduce discomfort.
- Physical therapy and exercise - stretching, walking, and other activities can improve flexibility and muscle strength.
- Pain medication - over-the-counter or prescription medicine can reduce swelling and pain.
- Epidural corticosteroid injections - a series of shots directly into the area where nerve compression exists can temporarily reduce swelling around a compressed nerve.
- Alternative treatment - many patients have found relief through chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and other complementary therapies.
When to Consider Surgical Spondylolisthesis Treatment
Pain and other symptoms should begin to subside after several weeks or months of conservative treatment. If not, surgery may become an option. Patients whose symptoms remain debilitating once all conservative treatment methods have been attempted should ask their doctor whether surgery might be beneficial. The goal of spondylolisthesis surgery is to alleviate nerve compression symptoms and stabilize the affected vertebral segment. In general, this is accomplished through spinal fusion surgery, which may require the removal of a sizeable amount of bone, the adjacent intervertebral disc, and other tissue, as well as the insertion of a bone graft and stabilizing hardware. Less-severe forms of spondylolisthesis may be treatable with minimally invasive, laser-assisted procedures.