Patient Comments: Spondylolisthesis - Symptoms

Question:

What symptoms do you experience with your spondylolisthesis? Submit Your Comment

Comment from: mike c, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: August 09

The day I turned 39, I woke up in the middle of night with lower back pain on the left side. I got out of bed and tried to walk it off. I sat down, and bam, my whole left leg went numb. I am very active playing non-contact football on a regular basis. I searched high and low for answers. I did not let this stop me. I went to orthopedic, chiropractor, and physical therapist (PT). My orthopedist said I needed to strengthen my core and keep stretching the surrounding muscles. The chiropractor told me that I should never play again and wanted to treat me for a lengthy time. The PT stretched me and taught me core exercises for my particular issue with the spondylolisthesis. I stretched and did the core exercises and 2 months later, the numbness was gradually going away. I took it slow, but started running again and stretching religiously. Three months later, I am playing again. I wear a back brace when I play. Outside of muscle tightness and some minor back pain, I am very close to full speed. It has been 7 months and I have had no setbacks. Every case is difference, but I feel that medication is not the way. I am no doctor, but I feel the core exercises are the key.

Comment from: TKT, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 29

I am somewhere between a grade 1 to 2 of spondylolisthesis apparently, and I've not gotten much help from any doctor I have seen for this. In 2003 I broke at least 2 vertebrae at the pars interarticularis and they slid because of that. Two may have been broken in an auto accident 10 years prior to that, as I was in pain for a year and 4 show breaks and movement. In 2003 I slipped on stairs while carrying a heavy box of books and landed on my rear. I had to keep on with the move to a new residence, which took several days. I developed extremely tight back muscles in my lumbar area due to my body trying to stabilize the fractures. I was in tremendous pain but was still mobile and had no health insurance or money to see a doctor, so I got a back brace and used ice and heat, but I didn't know there was a fracture! I was also sleeping on a horrible mattress! So I just suffered. I couldn't stand still for more than a few minutes or my back would seize up, and housework, especially vacuuming was very painful. I had periodic issues with continence. I couldn't stand up straight because the slip caused resulting lordosis. I didn't sleep well because of the chronic pain. Sometimes my back would just go out and I couldn't even stand up after lying down. I have always been athletic so this has been really discouraging.

Comment from: Daynerw, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 31

I had 2 spinal fusions for spondylolisthesis, in 1982 and 1984. Bone marrow was taken from both hips to fuse L3, L4, L5, and S1. Now after 30 years, I have developed intense pain throughout my lower back, hips, thighs, and left foot. MRI shows arthritis throughout the fused area, and my hips. Degeneration has occurred in the upper lumbar region due to the immobility from the fusions. At night, the pain and dead weight from sleeping on my hips wakes me, is so intense I cry out. I am stiff and can't roll over. The cold weather kills too. I've gone through physical therapy, etc. Dead end! I am now applying for disability.

Comment from: tuna, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: November 04

I was just diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. I'm reduced from 8 to 5 hours at work. I tell you, by the time my shift is over I can't walk and I stand on concrete floors. Doctor prescribed gabapentin for relief and it helps a bit but now he wants me to use a back brace and do physiotherapy. I also get the numbness in my right thigh; it's not fun.

Comment from: ashwini, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 18

I am suffering from spondylolisthesis at the levels L2-L3, L3-L4, and L4-L5, diagnosed since last 11 years. I had a history of motor vehicle accidents and one fall from a running train. I keep getting back pain with soft tissue swelling and pain and numbness to my right leg every now and then. I have also gained about 40 pounds in the last 10 years. I am told I also have an overactive bladder. I wonder if my lumbar problems have anything to do with my bladder problems. So far I was maintaining myself with exercises, but the pain is much more now every time I exercise or even swim.

Comment from: THELMA, Female (Patient) Published: January 06

I have had spinal fusion in 1997 which didn't help my spondylolisthesis. In 2009 I had more surgery where they put 4 screws in my back on each side of the spine and nothing has helped. I am in constant pain all the time. I am on Percocet and Oxycontin and even at that my pain level is from 8 on.

Comment from: Linda, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: February 20

I was diagnosed in 1985. I was 14 and a freshman in high school, I had a grade 4 spondylolisthesis. I had immediate fusion on lowest four vertebrae. Recovery was long and intense. I fought my way out of that and lived a fairly active life with moderate pain on occasion. They don"t tell you at 14 that down the road things may get worse. I became pregnant twice in two years 19 years later which caused so much strain on the parts above the fusion that I couldn"t walk and developed nerve pain while pregnant. After giving birth I had an MRI and they found a few levels so the spine above current fusion were all protruding. I had bone spurs growing and stenosis all wrapped in one. All the damage and inflammation caused no fluid getting down spinal canal to my legs causing the nerve damage. My baby was 3 months old when I went into surgery. I woke up 10 hours later to find out my surgeon had to reconstruct my entire spine from T11 - sacrum. I woke up in so much pain, I wanted to die. I have 14 screws two rods in my back. My second surgery was in March or 08. I remain in chronic pain. I never have a day without pain. I have permanent nerve damage in my left leg. I have no feeling in my left buttocks and where incision is. I am limited in walking, sitting, standing for long periods of time. I could return to work. I was in physical therapy 18 months. I saw pain management for 4 years. I am living with this for 32 years now.

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Comment from: IU309, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

I just recently discovered that I have spondylolisthesis and I'm 19 years old. I had been extremely active my entire life hoping to play college basketball or volleyball. I also did gymnastics and played softball. And they definitely took their toll on me. I went into my doctor when I noticed that when I woke up in the mornings, my upper torso would be twisted in a different direction then my hips. My body would stay locked in this position for a good half hour before I could get my normal range back. Due to this, I went to get x-rays and found out that along with spondylolisthesis, I have an extremely curved spine and the disc located in between my vertebrae had been worn down, which cause the twist. I have been dealing with pain ever since. My doctor informed me that the best way to ease this is to remain active, but at a slower pace. Overdoing it was just as consequential as underdoing it. But I've noticed that has helped me as well as going to the chiropractor regularly. I also had to be careful of the position I slept in and what I slept on. To keep from experiencing a painful wakeup, I made sure not to sleep on my stomach. Little adjustments to my lifestyle made a difference!

Comment from: redfox, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

At 67, I was recently diagnosed with L4-L5 spondylolisthesis. I am a runner for 40 years and ran a 1/2 marathon as recently as January 2013. In May 2013 I developed unbearable pain down the back of my left leg and thought it was a flare-up of what I've called sciatica since I was hit by a car 25 years ago. After finally going to the doctor for a true evaluation, I received this diagnosis. For me it is sitting that creates the most pain. I'm unable to sit for more than 45 minutes to an hour, so I find myself lying down most of the time. Ironically, walking is one of the few things that brings me relief. I continue to walk 4-5 miles several times a week. I've had shots and physical therapy which have helped but I seem to be at a plateau. I've been told that when the pain gets too severe, it will be fusion surgery. I continue to exercise as much as possible including weight work but use very light weights and am very careful to not arch my back in any way. The doctor believes this is trauma from my accident long ago that has gotten worse as I've aged. As a life-long athlete, I am struggling with the idea of losing mobility. While others are using a wheelchair, I can't even do that, since sitting is excruciating.

Comment from: P.S., 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: February 07

I am a 36 year old patient with chronic lumbar spondylosis having severe low back pain, foot pain and difficulty getting up. I cannot stand for more than 5 minutes. I can walk up to 50 steps with difficulty. All sorts of treatments are over. I am already using a cane for support. I will be using crutches to help me in walking around.

Comment from: Beverly, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 24

This site is very informative and supportive. It seems there are many people out there who suffer from spondylolisthesis, and I am surprised to see so many young people writing about their symptoms and treatments. My heart goes out to all. I was diagnosed two weeks ago after having increasing pain in my lower back, with numbness and spasms shooting down my right leg. My mistake was that, through the pain, I continued to walk my dogs 3 ½ miles a day, work 12-hour night shifts, and go full blast with my yoga practice. I felt good after doing the yoga, not realizing that the back bends, twists, and some extreme postures were actually exacerbating my condition and increasing my pain. I am receiving care from my naturopathic doctor with the treatment of acupuncture and a tilt-table inversion. Today I start physical therapy. Sleeping is the worst, because I ultimately have to get out of bed, and often my right leg spasms are extreme. I am living on Advil, Tylenol, and Aleve, trying to alternate each dose to ease the pain. I also take homeopathic meds to help with the pain. I am out on FMLA for now, and am really not sure if I can return to my present job as an ICU nurse. I have always been very physically active and often pushed myself too hard. I broke my right leg five years ago playing tennis and returned too quickly to work, wearing a brace for 12 hours while on my feet. My reason for saying this is to offer some advice. We need to slow down and partake in a lifestyle of self-care, which can be preventative and restorative. This is not being selfish nor should we feel guilty about doing this. Self-care is the healing and harmony of our body, mind, and spirit.

Comment from: DebNZ, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 20

I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis in 2001 (I was 36 years old). In 2008, I started to notice it was difficult getting up and down stairs and standing for any length of time. I saw a specialist, only to be told I also have stenosis (thinning of the spinal canal). I asked what treatments were available and she said “None, just carry on until you can't.” Fantastic, I thought. So here I am now, at 48, on morphine, not working, and about to make an appointment with my GP to get an occupational therapy consultation for a wheelchair assessment. On the upside, I was told at 16 that I would be on crutches until my mid-20s, and then in a wheelchair, and to look to the future with many surgeries in mind. I have managed to keep the wheelchair at bay for an extra 20 years. But now I can't go for a walk with my family, I'm pretty much housebound, and to do any gardening is not worth the pain it would induce, even being on morphine. All I can say to those of you who are heading in my direction – keep up the good fight until your body makes you submit. I wish everybody well.

Comment from: ginger, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 15

I have had spondylolisthesis since I was 26, I am now 54. Recently I have been in chronic pain with pain in my left leg, can't walk far, struggle to dress in morning. I've had physio on and off had back exercise regime, had injections none of which has helped. I recently went back to hospital and was basically told that injections do not work, the operations are not successful I must do my back exercises, go to a back class, and lose weight. I may be heavier than I used to be but by no means am I overweight. I am so disheartened and this condition is really depressing me. I'm supposed to be going back to the hospital in 4 months and I think what is the point. I was attending the hospital many years ago and was discharged with medication as they said there was nothing they could do it seems that 20 years on there's still nothing.

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Comment from: 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 14

Hi! My name is Patrice. I was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis in 2009, when I was 52. I had to have spinal fusion on my L3, L4 and L5. I had less than 3 months of walking when they operated. Don't get me wrong, I feel blessed to be still walking, but it's a daily struggle and I feel like I am getting worse. My walking is a struggle now and I can't do the things I used to. I can't keep my house up, gardening is something I still do, but I pay for it. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle and am so scared of being in a wheel chair and unable to work. I feel that is the way I am headed. It's very disheartening.

Comment from: chixonmull, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: February 01

I am a 66 year old female with a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis. I have no leg pain but if I stand for more than a few minutes my back starts to feel "tired.” If I don't sit down or sit for long in a straight backed chair my back begins to hurt. I started lifting weights and my back began to stiffen up and became very painful. Now I even have to drive short distances, can't go on walks with my family and feel guilty because others think I am just lazy. When going through airports I need wheelchair assistance when I appear perfectly healthy. This is quite embarrassing but better than having to sit down every 15-20 feet. I will be starting physical therapy in a couple of weeks and hope that it helps.

Comment from: hallasun, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 16

I get severe muscle cramps which sometimes start out with a jumpy nervous tingle just under the surface, followed by such a terrific pain that goes up and down my legs. Often the tendons on the sides of my legs contract so far that they bend my foot inward. It also can happen that I get a massive 'Charlie horse' cramp in the calf. It happens usually if I have been sitting for a long time and then get up. Quite often I get it after lying in bed. The pain is so severe that it makes me shout out. It can last for a few seconds or 20 minutes. There is no letting up of extreme pain however long it lasts. When I am in the cramp I try to formulate in my mind how to describe it to the doctor but I seem to be at a loss to do so as it doesn't always follow the same pattern. I have noticed sometimes that it feels hot. I get some form of this every day, sometimes more than once a day. I recently started going to an acupuncturist and after the first treatment I was pain free, not experiencing cramping for a few weeks but it has started up again just as severely but not as often. I still go to acupuncture because it felt like a miracle to me to not experience this unholy pain.

Comment from: 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: May 17

I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis about two years ago. Mine was due to a fracture to a part of my L5. I did physical therapy, which helped somewhat. I decided to retrain my spine. While sleeping, I got in a fetal position. This kept the spine curved, helping my condition. Apparently, if you arch your back it aggravates the condition. I have been almost pain-free for over a year. Oh yeah – I also slept on my back with a pillow under my calves. This position also puts the spine in the correct position. I have been stretching, and stretching my abdominals aggravated my condition, so I don't do that anymore. I am also interested in working out with weights, but am fearful I will do something to make my condition worse.

Comment from: G-MA, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 18

I was diagnosed in 2010 with spondylolisthesis after consulting a chiropractor with severe back pain and shocking sensations down my leg. I had been suffering for a few years not realizing what was going on. I just thought it was back spasms from two previous wrecks. This started out as a slow progressing event. Now I am unable, like most, to function and live a normal life. Walking more than a few minutes at a time is unbearable. Back spasms are horrible and the problems with my legs make it difficult to do just about anything. Leaning forward offers some relief as does sitting down. Only problem with that is now the relief is short lived. Lying down is ok for a bit--I am now in the situation where my recliner is the only place I find any long term relief. I am going back to my chiropractor beginning in March. I truly hope that this will help.

Comment from: AR, 55-64 Female (Caregiver) Published: February 05

My mother who is 60 years old has been diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis. She is an acute rheumatoid arthritis patient, hence surgery has been ruled out by doctors. She has been on various chronic pain management programs to get rid of the severe pain she has on her lower back and radiating down her thighs and legs. Recently she was given Bupivacaine injection on her spine for pain relief but it is to no avail. I'm not sure what kind of treatment she requires which would relieve her from pain. She is having a lot of side effects due to various pain killers.

Comment from: Lucylocket, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 03

It is very interesting to read these experiences of spondylolisthesis patients. Mine is grade 3 and has fused itself. There is no disc at all. It's just gone away. I used to be a very keen and able runner, and worked with horses for many years. Although I've had many episodes of back pain over the years, I've led a normal active life. Only now at 58 years old am I getting sciatica type pain, worsened by sitting. I also experience weakness in my legs on longer walks. Sometimes I wonder how I'm going to get home, but I do. My back does not extend (lean back) at all. I don't know if I'll get worse as I age but most people have health related problems and this is mine. I'll just have to wait and see.

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Comment from: Shelly, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: November 13

I was diagnosed in 2000 with spondylolisthesis, you name it I've done it in regards of treating the pain including surgery and absolutely nothing helped for a substantial length of time. I looked for a site like this years ago. It can be quite depressing when you think about all of the activities you once did and can no longer do anymore. It's the year 2012 and nothing has changed. The one thing that I am grateful for and I'm sure the most of you can agree is that I'm still glad I can walk even with the pain! With that said, it's true it still could have been worse. Hang in there guys, we must continue on!

Comment from: Cheryl, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: September 12

Hi, I am 64 years old and just underwent surgery and fusion for a pars fracture and spondylolisthesis. My symptoms were severe lower back pain and stiffness with a lot of muscle spasms in my back. Also right hip pain radiating from my back. I put up with this for several years but in the last year it got so bad that I had to take action. Physical therapy did not help. I am just shy of 3 weeks post op. It's a difficult ordeal but I am expecting good results. The hip pain is gone. I will be glad when the incision hurts less.

Comment from: Peta Marsh, 13-18 Female (Patient) Published: August 22

Hi, I'm 18 years old and have recently been diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. I'm always in constant pain and have been told that in the future I am going to need a spinal fusion. My pain gets so severe sometimes that I can't walk for days or even weeks. Even sitting down can be a struggle sometimes. It would take me about five minutes to stand back up again. At the start of this year I had a lot of trouble just trying to take my hand brake off in the car. I would have to turn around and try using two hands, and even pushing the clutch in hurt.

Comment from: Francis, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: September 12

I experience severe low back pain after standing for more than 10 minutes with my spondylolisthesis. It's alleviated after seating.

Comment from: c.costa, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: November 26

I'm 38 years old and I have spondylolisthesis L5-S1 grade 1 since I was 30. I'm a doctor and I don't know what to do? My doctor's tell me that they don't know, I think they are scared to operate on a colleague. So being a doctor and a patient is worse. I feel that I'm losing my life, my daughter's, and my husband's. I'm very sad. I can't work and, I can't live and everyone understand and carry on but I'm alone in my pain. Good luck everyone.

Comment from: Bogspondy, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: July 12

I'm 56 years old and I have spondylolisthesis at the L5 S1 level with mechanical and osteogenic lumbosacral pain. I have pain when I'm standing, sitting, and walking. The only relief I get is from pain killers Hydromorphone and Percocet, and moving from one position to another. I was very active in sports when younger and I find that while I can participate in almost any activity, I pay for it with pain later that day and for a couple of days thereafter. Driving for longer than half an hour exacerbates the condition. Running, jumping, vacuuming, sweeping the floor and riding the lawn mower all contribute to pain. I use the hot tub and ice belt for temporary relief.

Comment from: 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 14

I am a 59-year-old woman who woke up two months ago with category 10 pain in my right leg. I was diagnosed two weeks later with L5-S1 spondylolisthesis grade one. The disc is no longer visible on my X-rays and I have a fracture of the L5. I have since had two epidural injections, have done physical therapy, ice every day and have given up on most forms of exercise, other than abdominal strengthening and spine stretches. My pain level now varies between 4 and 6. Speed walking and hiking were my primary forms of exercise and I can't walk more than 10 yards without pain now. I am meeting with a spine surgeon next week to discuss surgery -- I don't want to live the rest of my life like this and cannot tolerate most pain medications.

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