Inappropriate use of chiropractic methods in spondylolisthesis treatment

by | Oct 25, 2012 | Lower Back Health, Lower back pain | 1 comment

chiropractor treating a patient for low back pain

The other day I encountered something I found disheartening, even shocking.

I was doing research on the topic of spondylolisthesis.  One website featured personal stories of spondylolisthesis sufferers.

Spondylolisthesis is a relatively common condition (up to 6% of people have it) affecting the low back. It occurs when one of your vertebrae slides forward on the vertebra below.  You lose the normal alignment of the spinal column because you’ve lost the integrity of the joints holding the spinal bones together.

Apparently, one woman had consulted a chiropractor for treatment of her spondylolisthesis, and was told that with spinal adjustments her alignment could be restored to normal.  It’s clear from her story that chiropractic care didn’t help her; it may have actually made her condition worse.

I was appalled.

In many situations, chiropractic adjustments are effective.  They can restore the normal pattern of joint motion in a joint that’s stiffened or blocked.  But they shouldn’t be used to try to realign spinal segments in a situation like spondylolisthesis – where there’s a loss of physiological joint integrity.  To attempt to do so is irresponsible.

It’s tragic that a chiropractor would make an unrealistic therapeutic claim because, in fact, once spinal adjustments are taken off the table, there’s a lot a chiropractor could do to help someone with spondylolisthesis.

Connective tissue treatments to alleviate stress of the muscles and fascia can be helpful.  Another option is lumbar decompression to open up space for the discs in the low back.

But the cornerstone of any treatment program for spondylolisthesis is self-care and therapeutic exercise.

Unfortunately, because spondylolisthesis is somewhat of a specialized area, a lot of generic low back advice doesn’t apply. Contact me for more information.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.

1 Comment

  1. Paul Bailey

    Dr Lavine,
    Glad i was able to catch you today. Writing this to confirm our telephone call and appointment for next Tuesday November 13th, 4:30 pm at your Princeton office. I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis a while back and have been searching for information and treatment options for this and other low back/sacroliliac issues that i am aware of. I signed up for your e-mails a while back after I came across your website while doing internet research on SIJD and finally decided today that I would have to make an appointment to see you as the information and website are all very pertinent to my low back issues.

    Look forward to meeting with you.

    Paul Bailey


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