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Recently diagnosed with spondylolisthesis...any advice?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Spinal Stenosis
I've had back pain for 10 years. Basically, the pain started when I was about 8 months pregnant with my first child. I have 2 children now and finally got this diagnosis from both an osteopath and orthapedic surgeon. I have the congenital form of spondyl...and my L5 has degenerated and is all but gone ( a little joint tissue remains). Oh, and I have 50% slippage and the two docs don't agree as to whether or not there will be further slippage. I have not had an MRI yet. Currently, I'm seeing a physical therapist and he is treating me with all sorts of stretching and core strength stuff. So, the more that I research the more confused and concerned I am becoming. Is there a cure for this condition? I'm managing the pain with a TENS unit and mild muscle relaxers. How does one go about finding an excellent neurosurgeon in his/her local area? I've asked everyone I know. There seems to be a lot of smart people on this site, please provide any advice or comments that apply. Thanks.


  • You will need to have a MRI and a flexion X-ray in order to get an accurate diagnosis of the spondylolisthesis, and whatever else is going on, or might be caused by the spondy.

    For some general information, you can read about it on this site:


    There is a video as well as other information.

    Spondylolisthesis does not have to be treated unless it is generating pain or causing too much instability in the spine. Unfortunately, at the moment the only effective way of treating it is a fusion surgery.

    There is a "Find a doctor" feature on this website. The important thing is to look for a fellowship-trained spinal specialist (if you're in the U.S.). This can be either an orthopedic spinal surgeon or a neurosurgeon who has received additional training during a Spine Fellowship and who now devotes his practice to issues of the neck and back. You do not want a general orthopedist who also performs joint replacements, sets bones, etc...nor do you want a neurosurgeon who prefers to do brain surgery. You want someone who is experienced and I think it is helpful if you feel comfortable with the doctor and his practice. If you're lucky, maybe you'll only see him a handful of times and you won't care about this, but if you end up with an on-going relationship, it helps to like and trust him and to appreciate the way he runs his practice.

    If you live in a small town, you may have to travel to a larger city to find an experienced specialist. You can call around to physical therapy clinics to see who they would go to if they had back problems. Or call the ortho floor of a local hospital and ask the same question. Look on various websites that rate doctors...or look on the AMA website to get names, and then research them on the internet. If you don't know someone who is a satisfied patient, it can take some homework to find someone you are comfortable with.

    There is not a "cure" per se for spondylolisthesis. If surgery is required, the surgeon can go in and stabilize the segment or segments so they will not continue to slide. To a small extent, he can try to realign the vertebral column, but mostly he will be stabilizing it to prevent further movement. If you have a spinal nerve that is being compressed by the slippage, he will open up that space so there is enough space for the nerve to function without compression.

    You are lucky if you can manage the pain with a tens unit and medication. Sometimes when there is nerve compression, there is intense sciatic-type pain running down the leg or legs.

    I would encourage you to get several opinions before you decide on a treatment plan.

    xx Gwennie
  • Thanks for the 'how to navigate' this process. I was feeling completely overwhelmed and your message came at the perfect time.
  • Be sure that your physical therapist understand that you have at least a grade II spondylolisthesis. You should avoid all exercises where your back is in hyperextension...bending backwards. This includes simple things like the Cobra position in basic yoga, and most of the McKenzie exercises. This is very important as it can make the slippage worse...and it can cause spinal nerves to become further pinched off.

    Another condition you should be aware of is Cauda Equina Syndrome. Anyone with lower lumbar disc problems needs to know about the symptoms and exactly what it is. It is one of only three conditions that are considered a medical emergency when dealing with the back. Everything else may hurt like crazy, but it can afford to wait. This is why almost all back surgery is considered elective. I am enclosing a link to CES so you can familiarize yourself with it. Do not let the article scare you. It is not common...but you are better off being aware of it and getting medical attention right away while it can still be "fixed" than being ignorant about it.


    There is a lot of information on the internet pertaining to spondylolisthesis. The more you learn about your conditions, the better you'll be able to communicate with the doctor and understand what he is trying to communicate to you. Any diagnosis is scary at first, but information is power. You will start to be able to face your problems when you understand more about what is going on and what can be done about it.

    Hope you're having a good day.

  • In ref; to your coment about your visit to chat and being told you are ignorant for taking pain killers is simply a lie. I hapened to be there when you 1st visited chat and there were many people that did nothing but ask you simple questions about your condition and your mri results as they ask everyone the same simple questions to try to help.Some of these people hapen to be previous nurses being in the medical field for many years. Some have recomended to you that maybe it would help to get the results of your mri and posibly seek help from pain management dr's even if you decided not to have the surgery which might be the only posible fix for the spondi you mentioned. You made it very clear in the chat room that you know someone that was worse off after fusion and you are not interested in surgery,which of course is your own decision, and that you are not interested in knowing what level of your spine is shown to have the problem on your mri. Some great people took the time to help and ask the right questions to try to help and understand the cause of your pain, and if anyone it was you that developed an attitude toward them for trying to help. None of us are Doctors and we can only make sugestions based on our own experiance on the surgeries we had. And not 1 person ever told you that you are ignorant for taking pain meds. By the way just about every member here that i know of is on pain medications for chronic pain. So i know 1st hand that was never said to you. And you making that claim in forum just to bash the people that tried to help you in chat in my view now does make you ignorant. Every person that visits spine health chat is always givin a warm welcome, and there is always many thats ready to help and understand and make sugestions based on the information they are given.Some new members once in a great while like yourself think we have a specific fix for there problems and forget that if we had the fix, we would not be here ourselves. And lashing out in anger at the room for your own frustrations is not the answer to your problem for we all have our own frustrations dealing with our own chronic pain, but still take the time to suport each other,and take each others sugestions to consideration to make life a litle easier. We are all here for the same reason=pain not drama. And making up such obserd statement that you were told that you are ignorant for taking pain medication is nothing but lie, and drama. Best wishes to you in finding a way to get releif from your pain, and i hope you reconsider and find out the results to your mri for thats a good place to start to seek further treatment even if not surgery. Sincerely Yours; Alexhurting
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Nothing of the sort was said about you being ignorant. We tried to get your story and ask u questions as we do every single person that comes into chat. Were here to help others and let them know there not alone Pain is a very real thing and causes a number of added issues. Depression anxiety stress. We had asked u about your MRI but u said u never seen it, nor was ever told about your MRI only that u had issues. You then proceeded to tell us you were addicted to your pain meds. Every question we asked you, you would become very defensive with your answers and lashing out at the few of us who were in the room at the time. I don’t know where u got this (Ignorant) in your mind. Maybe it’s your sever depression playing with you.
    The Dr has suggested surgery and when we asked about that, again lashing out at us because your friend you know is worse now than before. You know not every person is the same everyone heals differently, I think you should really reconsider and ask questions instead of taking it out on everyone and showing your frustrations by saying lies about the people in chat.
    Almost everyone that is in daily chronic pain here is on some kind of pain med some stronger than others, I personally would never tell anyone they are ignorant for taking them nor would anyone else in the room. Pain meds help people survive from day to day living.
    You know instead of taking the time to write and post such things on this forum maybe you should call the Doc and ask them to go over the results of your MRI. Then come back here and ask questions you would be surprised the help u can gain from this site. I know your frustrated and in pain I can relate, but coming on here and trying to put your frustration on us just wont work. I agree with Alex I wish you nothing but the best and hope you can find some kind of relief in the future, but just because your friend didn’t do so well with a fusion doesn’t mean you will turn out like him. You know most of the people that come here on this site if they have had surgery still have problems.. The ones that have a successful surgery rarely come here because they move on with there life. Just a few thing to keep in mind maybe..
  • it is my understanding after a slip past grade 1, which yours is, you should have it fused. mine was grade 2, borderline grade 3. I had been seeing a chiropractor and doing pilates from a pilates studio to manage the pain. My chiropractor refereed me to an excellent neurosurgeon. since generally chiropractors hate back surgery's and most surgeons, as they get to try and fix the messes bad ones leave behind. I dont know if that is an option for you, but maybe your physical therapist has s patient who had a good surgery and can give you the dr.'s name?

    if you were in Washington, id so say go to my lady. she was awesome and really good with me. even the staff went outta their way at the hospital to tell me she was their best.

    hope it all goes well for you.
  • oh, and you want the bone graft from your hip, not a cadaver. it makes the surgery a little longer and you stay in the hospital for a extra day or so, but you heal so much better and have less shifting of everything as you heal. My dr refuses to even consider a cadaver graft as in her experience it has a high risk of failure, even though it means more work for her. the cadaver is faster and easier for dr's.
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