Spondylolisthesis and Spondylitis

Spondylolisthesis & Spondylitis: Two More Causes of Back Pain

If you haven’t found a possible cause for back pain on this site yet on the other pages, there are still a few extra reasons why your back is hurting. Two of these other causes of back pain include spondylolisthesis and spondylitis. Both can cause chronic back pain.

Spondylolisthesis is Common in Gymnasts

The regular design of the vertebrae of the spine is that they are nicely stacked one on top of each other, but in spondylolisthesis, one of the vertebrae is out of place – it has slipped forward and cause chronic back pain. Usually the lowest vertebrae, the last lumbar vertebrae called L5 or The second to last, L4, are the ones that slip forward. Either L4 or L5 will slip forward; it’s rare that both will slip forward.

Slipping Off Into Danger

Spondylolisthesis can be a dangerous situation because if the vertebrae slips too far out of alignment, there will be pressure on the spinal nerves in that area. Severe back pain could be the result. Because these nerves allow the legs, knees, ankles and feet to function in movement, it’s possible that paralysis could also result.

This may be what happens during a severe trauma to the area. Whenever paralysis is a symptom occurring with back pain, medical attention must be sought immediately; surgery may be needed.

Most cases of spondylolisthesis don’t ever require surgery. Instead, anti-inflammatory drugs and exercises may be prescribed.

It’s possible that spondylolisthesis can occur due to a birth defect in the spine but usually the condition is seen in children participating in sports or adults who have arthritis in the spine. A stress fracture can cause spondylolisthesis during these types of sports:

• gymnastics

• football

• weightlifting

What these sports have in common is hyperextension of the spine. Think of how a young gymnast performs on the balance beam; she is constantly hyperextending her spine. Although this action makes her look like a champion, it can also cause a stress fracture that can weaken the vertebrae and create the shift of the vertebrae forward. This will cause chronic back pain.

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis Vary Widely

With a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis, you may or may not have low back pain. If you do have low back pain from spondylolisthesis, the back pain may also be found in the thighs and buttocks, along with stiffness and tenderness. In this disorder, there may even be nerve damage from compression of the spinal nerves.

This Back Pain is Due To Inflammation

Spondylitis causes back pain because it is an inflammation of the vertebrae itself.  There are a few situations that can cause this inflammation:

1.      Infection.

Infection can occur anywhere in the body, even in the membrane surrounding the spinal cord (called the arachnoid) or inside the space in between the vertebrae. Many people don’t realize this, and inadvertently let the infection go too far to the point where structures of the back and spine are destroyed.

Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, and many other infectious diseases can cause infections in the spine, just as Staphylococcus and other common pathological microbes can create infections anywhere in the body when the immune system function is low.

2.      Inflammation.

Inflammation of the joint between the low back and pelvis, the SI joint.

This may occur from different types of arthritis and is a cause of chronic back pain.

3.      The Autoimmune Disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis.

In this disease, inflammation causes the connective tissue in the spine to form into tissue that leads to the fusion of the vertebral bones of the spine.

When the vertebral are fused together, there’s no flexibility of the spine, and this makes it difficult to walk and move. Scientists are still trying to determine what exactly happens in the human body to cause this disease, and only know that genes called the HLA-B27.

The back pain in ankylosing spondylitis starts in the low back and proceeds upward over the spine, causing chronic back pain. The heat of a warm shower can increase the pain, just as movement can. The severe back pain in ankylosing spondylitis phase seems to disappear once the fusion of the spine is completed, but the loss of range of motion in the spine still remains. Ankylosing spondylitis will often lead to disability and several of the internal organs may also be affected.