Sliding vertebra

When one of the bones in the spine (vertebra) slowly slips forward and out of place, it is known as a sliding or slipped vertebra.

Overview

When one of the bones in the spine (vertebra) slowly slips forward and out of place, it is known as a sliding or slipped vertebra. A preventable risk factor is the overstraining of the “hollow back”, e.g. when doing gymnastics. This can cause back pain in the lumbar region, in particular during exercise or physical exertion. Exercises to strengthen and relax the back muscles can have a preventive effect.

Symptoms

  • Often asymptomatic (90%)
  • Back pain
    • During exercise/physical exertion
    • Typically in the “hollow back”
    • Pain radiates into the buttock/leg

Causes and treatment

Causes

Principle: one of the bones in the spine (often in the lumbar spine region) slips out of place and pushes forward (seldom backward) onto the bone below it

  • Crack or stress fracture in one of the vertebrae (spondylolysis)
  • Excessive spine curvature in the “hollow back” (hyperlordosis)
    • Artistic/apparatus gymnastics
    • Athletics (throwing/jumping events)
    • Butterfly stroke
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Wear and tear
  • Accident
  • Deformities of the spine

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Physical examination
  • Imaging tests
    • X-ray
    • CT scan (computed tomography)
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Possible therapies
  • Physiotherapy
  • Painkillers
  • Corset treatment, if necessary
  • Surgery, if necessary

What can I do myself?

  • Avoid overbending of the spine
    • i.e. don't do risky sports
  • Exercises to strengthen and relax the back muscles
  • Regular exercise

When to see a doctor?

  • Severe back pain
  • Chronic back pain
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Involuntary passing of urine or stools
  • Accompanied by pain in the leg
  • Sensory disturbances and paralysis

Further information

Department of Neurosurgery, Inselspital Bern
www.neurochirurgie.insel.ch

Synonyms

sliding vertebra, sliding vertebrae, slipped vertebra, slipped vertebrae, spondylolisthesis, SL, anterolisthesis, ventrolisthesis, retrolisthesis, spondylolysis, spondyloptosis, pseudospondylolisthesis, olisthesis, listhesis

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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