Spondylolisthesis is the complicated medical term for a slipped vertebra. Though Paul E. Schwaegler, MD, and Jeff Fernandez, PA, at Seattle Spine Institute begin your treatment with medications and physical therapy, you may need spondylolisthesis surgery if your pain doesn’t improve or becomes debilitating. If you experience ongoing back and leg pain, call the office in Seattle, Washington, or schedule an evaluation online to learn if surgery may give you relief from the pain of a slipped vertebra.
You may need this surgery when you have a slipped vertebra, a condition called spondylolisthesis. Two types of spondylolisthesis often affect adults:
Everyday stress causes gradual degenerative changes in your spine. The supporting ligaments weaken, discs dehydrate and collapse, and arthritis damages the facet joints connecting each vertebra. These conditions weaken the spine, allowing a vertebra to slide forward and out of alignment.
Spondylolysis refers to a stress fracture in the vertebra. In most cases, the stress fracture occurs during adolescence and doesn’t cause symptoms until adulthood, when degenerative changes cause more stress on the fracture and the vertebra slips.
The primary symptoms, low back and leg pain, occur as the slipped vertebra pushes against spinal nerves. You may also experience painful muscle spasms, tingling or numbness in your leg, or muscle weakness, especially if you spend a long time standing or sitting.
Seattle Spine Institute begins your treatment with non-surgical options, such as rest, medications, a back brace, and physical therapy. But if your symptoms get worse or don’t improve after several months, or the pain and weakness affect your ability to walk or stand, it’s time to consider surgery.
Dr. Schwaegler specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery. Minimally invasive procedures use small incisions, causing less trauma, reducing post-surgery pain, and accelerating your recovery.
When performing minimally invasive spondylolisthesis surgery, Dr. Schwaegler typically does a decompression procedure to take pressure off the nerve, followed by a spinal fusion to restore stability.
During decompression, he removes anything that’s pinching the spinal nerve (bone spurs, thickened ligaments, herniated discs). He may also take away part of the vertebrae to create more room for the nerves.
To fuse the bones, he inserts a bone graft that promotes new bone growth. As the two adjoining bones grow over the graft, they meet and heal to form one strong bone.
In some people with a stress fracture, Dr. Schwaegler may be able to stabilize the fracture and secure the vertebrae with small screws or wires. He may also use a bone graft to help the fracture heal.
You can get help for persistent lower back pain. Call Seattle Spine Institute or request an appointment online today.