Can Spondylolisthesis Be Reversed?
Spondylolisthesis can cause lasting pain, stiffness, and neurological symptoms. In some cases, this spinal condition can diminish patients’ mobility and ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. So, many spondylolisthesis patients wonder whether or not the condition can be reversed.
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In this article, we’ll discuss how long spondylolisthesis typically lasts and whether or not it can be cured.
Is Spondylolisthesis a Permanent Condition?
Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the spinal bones, called vertebrae, slips out of its normal position. The misplaced bone rests on the vertebra beneath it, often causing significant lower back pain.
Technically, there’s no cure for spondylolisthesis. Non-surgical treatment methods can’t resolve the slippage of the vertebra but can be successful in alleviating patients’ symptoms. Surgery can be used to fix the misplaced vertebra.
How Long Does it Take to Heal Spondylolisthesis?
The time that it takes to make a full recovery from spondylolisthesis depends on the patient’s age and the case’s severity. In most young patients, the condition heals within three to six months of non-surgical treatment. While these methods (such as physical therapy) won’t bring the misplaced bone back to its proper position, they can be effective at alleviating patients’ symptoms.
For older individuals, it may take longer to recover from this lumbar spine condition. If you undergo surgical treatment for spondylolisthesis, the recovery process may last for up to a year (particularly for spinal fusion). Opting for a non-fusion spinal device can shorten this recovery period.
What Can Make Spondylolisthesis Worse?
Several lifestyle factors can worsen spondylolisthesis and inhibit your recovery process. These factors include:
- Poor posture
Standing, sitting, or exercising with poor posture keeps the spine misaligned. When the spine is out of alignment, it undergoes additional strain when you sit, stand, and walk.
Smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, or using any other nicotine can worsen spine conditions like spondylolisthesis. Nicotine is a blood vessel constrictor, so it limits the flow of blood throughout your body. As a result, your spine doesn’t receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to remain healthy.
- Being overweight
Excess pounds add stress to the spine. Whenever you stand, sit, or walk, your spine must bear the extra weight, which can speed up the process of spinal degeneration.
- Participating in high-impact activities
High-impact activities like running, jumping, diving, gymnastics, and contact sports can worsen spondylolisthesis. These activities can force the spine into positions that worsen nerve compression and pain. They also heighten the risk of further injury.
Adjusting your lifestyle to avoid these factors is an important aspect of how to cure spondylolisthesis.
How to Treat Spondylolisthesis Naturally
Most cases of spondylolisthesis can be treated naturally, without the need for surgery. In these cases, spine specialists may implement spondylolisthesis treatment options including:
Given that spondylolisthesis concerns spinal instability, it can benefit from bracing. A back brace can support the lumbar spine to prevent worsening pain and nerve compression. It can also help keep the spine in alignment while you’re moving around throughout the day.
Physical therapy is widely used as a treatment for spondylolisthesis. Physical therapists specialize in spondylolisthesis treatment exercises to improve both strength and mobility while correcting improper movement patterns.
Ultimately, physical therapy can help reduce the strain on your spine throughout the day. This gives the spine a better chance to heal while lessening back pain and neurological symptoms. Your physical therapist may also implement heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, acupuncture, massage, and related techniques to further improve your symptoms.
Your physician may recommend six to 12 weeks of physical therapy for spondylolisthesis. Patients may need ongoing physical therapy to continually manage their symptoms or fully recover from spondylolisthesis surgery.
Low-Impact Physical Activity
We’ve already mentioned that high-impact activities may worsen spondylolisthesis pain. However, low-impact physical activity can benefit this condition.
Activities like walking short distances, water aerobics, and tai chi improve circulation, muscle strength, and flexibility. In the long run, a low-impact exercise plan can support your spondylolisthesis recovery.
Spondylolisthesis patients tend to have swelling in the soft tissues around the spine. This inflammation can worsen with day-to-day motions and exacerbate spondylolisthesis symptoms. So, your physician may recommend anti-inflammatory medications to manage the swelling and reduce your pain.
While the non-surgical treatments listed above can help spondylolisthesis patients overcome their symptoms, they can’t physically reverse this spinal condition.
The Best Treatment For Severe Spondylolisthesis
Unfortunately, non-surgical treatments can’t return the displaced vertebra to its proper position. These therapies can only work to alleviate symptoms. So, in severe spondylolisthesis cases, surgery may be the only viable option to restore patients’ comfort, mobility, and function.
To surgically cure spondylolisthesis, spine surgeons typically perform spinal decompression and spinal fusion.
- Spinal decompression
Spinal decompression is a surgical technique with the goal of releasing pressure on the nerves in the spinal canal. It may be implemented when a misplaced vertebra caused by spondylolisthesis presses on spinal nerves.
A few different methods of surgical spinal decompression exist, including laminectomy, foraminotomy, and discectomy, among others. Your spine surgeon will select the best approach for your case. However, laminectomy is one of the most widely used methods for spondylolisthesis, and it creates more space in the spinal canal by removing some or all of the lamina at the back of the spine.
- Spinal fusion
Patients with spondylolisthesis are subject to spinal instability. So, to stabilize the spine, many physicians implement spinal fusion.
During spinal fusion, the surgeon places bone graft material in between two or more vertebrae. This material will gradually cause the vertebrae to fuse into one segment of bone. This prevents all motion at the fused segment.
Though spinal fusion is a trusted procedure for spondylolisthesis, it can severely limit patients’ mobility. Without the ability to move or bend the spine at the fused segment, patients may have to give up some of their favorite physical activities. Thus, modern and innovative medical devices come to help:
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So, what is the best treatment for spondylolisthesis? The answer comes down to the patient’s unique needs. Talk to a trusted spine specialist to learn about the treatments available for your spondylolisthesis case, including innovative motion-preserving implants.