Chiropractic care is a drug-free, nonsurgical treatment for many types of conditions and to help manage pain. As more and more medical professionals are recognizing its effectiveness and viability for treating many issues in the body, chiropractic is gaining popularity and becoming the treatment of choice for many patients with chronic pain, back problems and other issues. In particular, it has been found to be a very effective treatment for spondylolisthesis. It can not only relieve the pain, but often return the patient’s mobility as well.
What is Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra slides forward over the vertebra that is below it. It is typically confined to the lumbosacral, or lower back area. It can become painful, causing lower back pain and weakness or numbness in one or both legs, when it causes the nerve roots or spinal cord to be squeezed. In severe cases, a patient can lose control of their bowel or bladder function, but this is fairly rare. However, any patient who begins to lose bowel or bladder control should contact their doctor immediately.
In some cases, a person’s vertebra can slip out of place without any symptoms being present. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up until months or even years later. Symptoms of spondylolisthesis may include:
- Low back pain
- Pain in the buttock area
- Pain that radiates from the lower back down one or both legs
- Weakness in one or both legs
- Leg muscles feel tight (one or both legs)
- Limping or walking difficulties
- Loss of bower or bladder control (rare)
- Pain that increases when twisting or bending
How is Spondylolisthesis Diagnosed?
Spondylolisthesis is diagnosed by a doctor or chiropractor who may conduct several diagnostic tests. Typically, the doctor will take X-rays of the patient’s back to rule out certain conditions, especially if they suspect spondylolisthesis.
The X-ray will allow the doctor to see if any of the patient’s vertebrae have slipped out of place, or are cracked or fractured. An MRI or CT scan may also be ordered to better view the spine and see the extent of the damage.
What are the Treatments for Spondylolisthesis?
The treatment for spondylolisthesis is based on the actual damage identified by the doctor, the pain and mobility problems that the patient is experiencing, and the overall severity of the condition. Rest is the first course of treatment as well as ceasing the physical activities that may have caused the damage in the first place.
Pain may be managed by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen. Acetaminophen may also be administered for pain.
Other treatments for spondylolisthesis include:
- Weight loss (if the person is obese or overweight)
- Physical therapy to strengthen the core
- Epidural steroid injections
- Surgery (in severe cases such as damage to the spinal cord or nerve root)
There are several types of surgery that may be used to treat spondylolisthesis. The surgeon may remove tissue or bone in order to relieve pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. Sometimes the doctor may opt for fusing the damaged bones into place so they can no longer slip. In some cases, both procedures are done. This type of treatment is usually a last resort because recovery can be lengthy and the patient will have to wear a back brace or cast while their back is healing.
Is Chiropractic Effective for Treating Spondylolisthesis?
Chiropractic is a drug-free, noninvasive treatment for spondylolisthesis. It is often a preferred treatment because the patient does not have to undergo painful surgery or take medication that could have undesirable side effects. There are three primary spinal manipulation techniques that may be used by the chiropractor:
- Spinal manipulation specific to the restricted or impaired joints
- Flexion-distraction technique which is a slow, gentle pumping action
- Instrument assisted manipulation uses an instrument to apply gentle force to the spine
Chiropractic care has been found to be very effective in treating this condition, but prevention is always the best course of action. Regular exercise, healthy weight management, and regular chiropractic visits can help ward off many spine related conditions including spondylolisthesis.
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