Active kids are often healthy kids, but all this activity during a stage in their life when their bodies are still developing can also lead to some injuries. If your child is complaining about back pain, inhibited range of motion and back stiffness, consider having them examined by a spine specialist. There’s a chance they could be dealing with a condition known as spondylolisthesis. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at spondylolisthesis and shifting spinal discs in kids and teens.
Spondylolisthesis And Slipped Discs
Spondylolisthesis is a medical condition that occurs when a vertebrae shifts out of place. When this happens, the vertebrae can compress nerves or affect the stability of your spine, leading to symptoms like back pain, stiffness, muscle weakness and numbness.
The condition can occur for a few different reasons, but when it occurs in children and teens, it’s often the result of overstress and repetitive force on the spine. More specifically, it often happens when a person repeatedly extends their spine backwards while twisting or turning. These motions are common in football, gymnastics and during performance dance. This repeated stress, combined with the natural growing of a child’s body, puts them at risk for shifting vertebrae that can lead to pain and spinal instability.
Diagnosing and Treating Spondylolisthesis
If your child is dealing with spine pain that doesn’t resolve, bring them into a physician, especially if it seems like they are in the middle of a growth spurt. They’ll begin by conducting a physical exam and asking your child about their symptoms. They’ll also likely order an x-ray or similar imaging test, as this can reveal signs that one of more spinal vertebrae have shifted out of their correct location. Once the location of the spondylolisthesis has been identified, doctors can walk both the parent and the child through some treatment options.
The good news is that for many patients, nonsurgical approaches can help guide the vertebrae back into the correct location. For patients with persistent back pain or significant vertebral shifting, a minimally invasive procedure can help correct the issue and have them back to sporting activities in no time.
Common conservative techniques that are often used in combination with one another include:
- Rest from certain sporting or physical activities that cause back discomfort
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
- Back bracing
- Targeted stretching and physical therapy
Physical therapy is often the treatment option through which patients see the most success, because it will help to strengthen the spine, improve flexibility and naturally help shift the vertebrae back into alignment. We’ll also help set you up with home care exercises to help prevent a recurrence in the future.
In the rare event that conservative care techniques do not provide relief or you have a severe vertebral shift, the neurospecialist may recommend a minimally invasive procedure. Surgery can help shift the disc back into place, relieve any lingering nerve pressure and re-stabilize the spine to prevent another issue in the future. Again, it rarely progresses to this point, but surgery has a very high success rate for those that need to pursue this option.
For more information about spondylolisthesis in kids and teens, or to set up an appointment for your child, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.