With more children participating in sports every year, Spondylolisthesis is becoming more commonly diagnosed among youth.
Stretching for 30 minutes before participating in sports in growing children can prevent injury.
Spondylolisthesis is an overuse injury in children and is caused by frequent hyperextension of the lower back. It is becoming more common among children who play sports such as gymnastics, football or wrestling. Overuse injuries in children who play sports are on the rise.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one of the bones of the spine (vertebrae) slips out of place and off in front of the vertebra below it. If it slips too much, the bone can press on a nerve causing pain. Severe pressure on the nerves may also cause bladder dysfunction. Usually the bones of the lower back are affected.
Spondylolisthesis is a not uncommon cause of back pain in teens, who often begin showing symptoms during a teenage growth spurt. Overuse in sports that strain the lower back can contribute to the condition. Warm up and stretching, especially during the growing years, is vitally important.
Our physicians at Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists take care of all types of sports-related injuries including Spondylolisthesis. In case of an injury, we can see your child right away. You never have to wait long for an appointment. With convenient locations in Arlington, Dallas, Frisco and McKinney, we are never far away.
Oftentimes people with spondylolisthesis are non-symptomatic and don’t even know they have the condition. When symptoms do occur, the most common one is low back pain which often spreads across the lower back and might feel like a muscle strain. Spondylolisthesis can also cause muscle spasms in the hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs. Tight hamstrings can cause a child to walk with short strides and with the knees slightly bent. If the slipped vertebra is pressing on a nerve, pain might spread down the leg to the foot. The foot might also tingle and/or feel numb.
An X-ray of the lower back can show a vertebra out of place; however, the more detailed images of a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be needed to more clearly see the bones and nerves involved.
Spondylolisthesis is becoming more common among teenagers
“With spondylolisthesis, when the vertebra slips before the age of ten, it is more likely to be a big slip as teenagers. At Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists, our board-certified physicians are especially trained in spinal injuries and specifically treat children and adolescents, so we understand the complexities of growth plates for children’s growing bones.” Shyam Kishan, MD
Treatment for spondylolisthesis depends on several factors, including the age and overall health of the child, the extent of the slippage, and the severity of the symptoms. Treatment is most often conservative. More severe spondylolisthesis may require surgery.
Conservative treatment – This involves rest, medication and moderate exercise. Taking a break from sports and other activities until the pain subsides is recommended. An over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug might also be recommended to help reduce pain and inflammation. Stronger medications might be prescribed if that does not provide relief. Epidural steroid injections in which medication is placed directly in the space surrounding the spine may also help reduce inflammation and ease pain.
Bracing – Additionally, a brace or back support may be used to help stabilize the lower back and reduce pain. An exercise program and/or physical therapy will help increase pain-free movement and improve flexibility and muscle strength. We periodically take X-rays to determine if bone slippage persists.
Physical therapy – Exercise strengthens the abdominal and/or back muscles thus minimizing bony movement of the spine. We generally recommend eight to 12 weeks of aggressive, daily stabilization exercises to achieve clinical improvement. Focus on stretching tight hamstrings, as well as core and spine extensor muscle strengthening helps.
Surgery – A surgical option may be necessary if the vertebra continues to slip or if the pain is not relieved by conservative treatment. Through surgery, we can stabilize the spine where the vertebra has slipped out of place and relieve the pain associated with an irritated nerve—all of which increases the person’s ability to function.
“Spondylolysis is a condition which commonly affects children in their growing years. A part of the back of the spine called the “pars” is injured with a small stress fracture, and this can lead to a condition known as spondylolisthesis, where one of the bones slips down over another, causing pain and significantly reducing their activity level.” – Dr. Kathryn Wiesman