Spondylolisthesis And Chiropractic Care

Grades of Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that affects the spine, causing one of the lower vertebrae to slip forward onto the bone directly beneath it. This spinal misalignment can lead to varying degrees of discomfort and impairment. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for spondylolisthesis is crucial for improved quality of life.

What is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is derived from the Greek words "spondylos" meaning vertebra and "listhesis" meaning to slip. It primarily affects the lumbar spine (lower back), although it can occur in the cervical spine (neck) as well. The condition is often classified based on the cause and severity of the slippage.


Spondylolisthesis can result from various factors, including:

  1. Congenital: Some individuals are born with a defect or weakness in the vertebrae, making them more prone to slippage.
  2. Degenerative: Wear and tear on the spine due to aging can lead to degenerative changes, such as arthritis, which may contribute to spondylolisthesis.
  3. Traumatic: Injuries, such as fractures or trauma to the spine, can cause vertebrae to slip out of place.
  4. Pathological: Certain conditions like tumors or infections can weaken the spinal structures, leading to spondylolisthesis.


The severity of symptoms associated with spondylolisthesis can vary greatly.  Severity of symptoms can depend on the degree of slippage and individual factors. Common symptoms may include:

  1. Lower back pain: Persistent pain in the lower back is a hallmark symptom of spondylolisthesis. The pain may worsen with movement or activity.
  2. Sciatica: Radiating pain that extends from the lower back down one or both legs.  This can also include numbness or tingling.
  3. Muscle stiffness: Tightness or stiffness in the lower back muscles, making movement uncomfortable.
  4. Reduced flexibility: Difficulty bending or twisting the spine due to the slippage of vertebrae.
  5. Weakness: Weakness or numbness in the legs.  As a result, this may impair walking or standing for extended periods.


Diagnosing spondylolisthesis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies. X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans are commonly used to  determine the extent of the slippage.

Treatment Options

Treatment for spondylolisthesis aims to relieve symptoms, stabilize the spine, and improve overall function.  Common treatment options include:

  1. Conservative Management:
    • Pain management: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants may help alleviate pain and inflammation.
    • Physical therapy: Strengthening exercises and stretches can improve spinal stability and flexibility.
    • Activity modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, such as heavy lifting or high-impact sports, may be recommended.
    • Bracing: In some rare cases, wearing a brace to support the spine may provide relief.
  2. More Invasive Procedures:
    • Epidural steroid injections: Corticosteroids injected into the epidural space around the spine.  As a result, this can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
    • Facet joint injections: Medications injected into the facet joints of the spine can provide temporary relief from pain.
  3. Surgical Intervention:
    • Spinal fusion: In severe cases of spondylolisthesis, surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion involves fusing the affected vertebrae together using bone grafts or implants to prevent further slippage.

Chiropractic Treatment for Spondylolisthesis

Chiropractic treatment for spondylolisthesis typically involves a combination of manual adjustments, therapeutic exercises, and lifestyle modifications. The goals of chiropractic care in spondylolisthesis management include:

  1. Spinal Realignment: Chiropractic adjustments aim to restore proper alignment and mobility to the spine, reducing pressure on the affected vertebrae and surrounding tissues.
  2. Pain Relief: Chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with spondylolisthesis.  Consequently, this can provide relief without the need for medication.
  3. Improved Function: Chiropractic care addresses biomechanical imbalances and spinal misalignments.  As a result, chiropractic care aims to improve overall spinal function and range of motion.
  4. Prevention of Progression: Regular chiropractic adjustments may help prevent further slippage of the vertebrae.  As a result, this may minimize the risk of complications associated with spondylolisthesis.

Considerations for Chiropractic Care

While chiropractic treatment can be beneficial for many individuals with spondylolisthesis, several considerations should be taken into account:

  1. Severity of Spondylolisthesis: Chiropractic care may be more suitable for individuals with mild to moderate spondylolisthesis. Consequently, severe cases or those with significant neurological involvement may require alternative treatment approaches.
  2. Individual Health Factors: Chiropractic treatment should be tailored to the individual's overall health status.  This includes age, medical history, and presence of other underlying conditions.
  3. Collaborative Approach: Chiropractic care is often most effective when integrated with other therapeutic modalities.  This can include physical therapy, exercise rehabilitation, and pain management strategies.
  4. Risk of Complications: While rare, there is a small risk of adverse events associated with chiropractic adjustments.  This may include exacerbation of symptoms or injury to surrounding structures. It's essential to discuss potential risks and benefits with a chiropractor before undergoing treatment.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Spondylolisthesis

Chiropractic treatment offers several potential benefits for individuals with spondylolisthesis, including:

  1. Non-invasive Approach: Chiropractic care provides a non-invasive alternative to surgery for managing spondylolisthesis.  As a result, this can minimize the risk of complications and reduce recovery time.
  2. Symptomatic Relief: Many individuals experience significant relief from pain and discomfort through chiropractic adjustments.  As a result, this allows for improved mobility and quality of life.
  3. Patient-Centered Care: Chiropractic treatment is tailored to the individual's specific needs and preferences.  Consequently, Chiropractic care focuses on empowering patients to actively participate in their recovery process.

Chiropractic care offers a safe and effective treatment option for individuals with spondylolisthesis, focusing on spinal realignment, pain relief, and functional improvement. While chiropractic treatment may not be suitable for everyone, it can be a valuable care option for many. If you're considering chiropractic care for spondylolisthesis, contact us or book online to get started.

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