Q. My doctor said my X-rays showed that a vertebra in my low back is slipping forward. Will this get worse and will my spine eventually slip off?
A. Your doctor may be describing a spine condition called spondylolisthesis (spon-dil-low-liss-the-sis), which is when the bones in your spine slip out of line. This condition often begins as a stress fracture in one pedicle of a vertebral body, called a spondylolysis (spon-dil-low-lie-sis). The pedicle connects to the vertebral body and is part of the bony ring that forms the spinal canal. If the fracture is on both pedicles, it is called a spondylolisthesis , and the facet joints are not able to hold the vertebra from slipping. The forward pressure stretches the disc. In adults, this stretching usually allows only a small amount of forward slip without the risk that the upper vertebra will slide off. In teenagers, there is an extreme form of spondylolisthesis in which the upper vertebra slips completely off the lower vertebra.
Your condition may not get worse, but you will have a higher risk for developing chronic low back pain. A supervised program of physical therapy will help you learn which postures to avoid and what exercises you can do to help stabilize and protect your back.
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