About Spondylolisthesis Stories ...

Welcome! Spondylolisthesis Stories is a compilation of personal stories involving individual's diagnoses, experiences, surgeries, and life with Spondylolisthesis.


My hope is that this site may offer a voice and platform for those with the spine condition to share their personal stories with the medical community, fellow Spondyo patients, and the world as a whole. Spondylolisthesis Stories also provides a wide array of information, personal knowledge, support and ideas for those with Spondylolisthesis. Whether you were recently diagnosed, learning to live with the condition, making difficult decisions regarding surgical interventions, in the early phase of recovery following an operation, or further into your journey, this site covers it all!


In addition to general stories about this spine condition, personal stories which focus on the subject of Spondylolisthesis & Pregnancy may also be found. These shared experiences detail the matter of labor and delivery, and include women with both unfused slips and those whom have had surgery prior to pregnancy. It has been my experience that this topic is one which is shrouded in some mystery. By sharing these stories I hope we may be able to shed some light on the subject; offering guidance and ideas to those females with Spondyo who would like to become pregnant but fear the unknowns which this condition can create.


I am always seeking new stories and would love to hear yours! Let your story and voice be heard! Please contact me (Brenna), at spondyostories@gmail.com, in order to share your story here. If you are seeking additional help and support from others with Spondyo, please ask to join the "Spondylolisthesis and Retrolisthesis Support Group" on Facebook. *This group is closed, and therefore, offers a higher level of privacy and comfort for all members to share openly and without fear of judgement. It is open to anyone with Spondylolisthesis (or a family members of those with Spondylolisthesis) to join.


Below the Spondylolisthesis stories you will find several survey questions. If you have Spondylolisthesis, please take a moment to review these questions and select your answer(s). You are also encouraged to join in and participate by interacting in the "Community Answers" board, located at the bottom of the page. Feel free to post questions and comments, share stories, answer the questions already presented, and ask your own questions! I greatly appreciate your participation and look forward to reading your answers and comments!

Spondylolisthesis Stories ...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spondylolisthesis Story #1: Brenna (Spondyloptosis/Grade 5 & Grade 1))

Brenna (Cat) - Spondylolisthesis Story (Spondyloptosis/Grade 5 & Grade 1)

My story begins in 1990/1991. I was about 9 or so when I began experiencing a lot of pain and other nagging symptoms in my low back and lower extremities. I complained of pain numerous times, and my parents brought me to several doctors over the next few years, including a Chiropractor. After enduring this pain for several years, I had to stop playing all of my beloved sports; the pain was just too much to bare. My primary care doctor told both my parents and myself that nothing was wrong ... She proceeded to advise my parents that I was exaggerating my pain in attempts to seek attention, get out of playing sports, and simply being lazy. She said that all I needed to do was stretch and remain active (encouraging me to become even more active in fact). She never once diagnosed me, referred me, nor suggested there was a problem of any magnitude. After a few of these appointments, I stopped complaining of the pain, and truly thought that everyone felt the way I did. Boy was I wrong! 

A few years later (1996), my back pain had become excruciating. I began to have weakness, numbness, and shooting pains in my legs, and I would occasionally fall down as well. The pain was so great that it literally caused my skin to turn a grayish-green shade. My "new" skin colouring did not go away until after I had my surgeries. After spending several years in silence about my tremendous pain and discomfort, what ultimately drove me to tell my parents (and then doctors), once more that my back did not feel normal, was discovering a large "lump" on my low back. The lump turned out to be my S1 protruding due to my slip. In fact, due to the degree & severity of the slip (3 inches beyond a grade 5), my body had become very compressed. Not only had a stopped gaining height, but I soon began to lose about an inch in height prior to surgery. At that point in time you could actually see the bottom of my ribcage touching and rubbing against the top of my hips. I saw a number of specialists within a short period of time who diagnosed me with Spondylopstosis; which is considered a complete slip after Spondylolisthesis Grade 5. I was 14 at the time, and within 6 months I was on my way to a new life without pain ... but not before enduring some very extensive and traumatic surgeries, full body traction, and a long & challenging recovery. 

In the 6 months prior to my surgeries my mom found a practice called Soma Body Work. The therapy itself actually began to help moving the spine in the correct direction. This fact amazed the doctors to no end. I have continued with this Integration Body Work Massage Therapy ever since (I have been getting these treatments for nearly 16 years now). It's one of the main things which helps to relieve my pain to this day as well as assisting with my nerve-related issues. I often wonder what surgeries and general nerve damage I could have avoided had we found and started this body work 2 or 3 years earlier. But, unfortunately, one cannot go back in time. 

In 1997, after much consideration, my parents decided to go with a series of surgeries and full body traction; which was the best option to avoid nerve damage, or worse, paralysis. There were several options presented by different surgeons around the country, but slowly reducing the slip over a longer period of time seemed to be the best bet, and I really believe that it was. My first surgery was a Laminectomy. I was then put in body traction, which consisted of a halo cast on my head and two rods through my knees. Each contraption had ropes attached that led to the respective ends of the bed. Weights were added each day to those ropes, which slowly stretched my spine, literally. This was the most painful part of the entire experience; something I will never forget. I was supposed to be in traction for a total of 2 weeks, but on the 7th day I began to lose feeling and movement in my feet, so after much insistence by my family the surgeon stopped the process and moved on to the 2nd surgery. Because the traction had to be stopped early, my slip had only been decreased to a grade 5. This was good in several regards, as it allowed the surgeon to be able to fuse the spine and avoid further nerve damage in my legs and feet. The second surgery was an Anterior Fusion. They went through my abdomen to reach the front of my spine and fused with two screws, a femur bone (donated cadaver bone), and bone graft, which was harvested from my right hip. Unlike most fusions, both an Allograft and Autograft were utilized in the fusion in order to increase the overall stability and solidity of the fusion mass region. I woke up after this surgery with a body cast on, and a lot of pain in my hip, but not so much in my back or stomach, interestingly enough. At the time the doctors had failed to mention that bone graft would be cut from the hip. My family thought that I was really out of it when I continually complained of my hip pain. My mom kept saying, "No honey, you had back surgeries. You did not have hip surgery!" LOL.

I spent just over 4 months in my body cast, followed by a year in a body brace. I do have permanent nerve damage in my feet unfortunately, but in the grand scheme of things, this side effect is minor. Over time my body learned how to compensate to function with my foot drop and other related issues. I was very fortunate to not experience any serious bladder or bowel complications or involvement. In that specific department, the most problematic issue has been related to the extensive scar tissue surrounding my lower organs, including that of my intestines/bowels. Breaking up the scar tissue through massage has been helpful to some degree, although no matter what I do, I have since had issues with digestive matters unfortunately. I did not have any additional problems involving my back for the first 8 years after my surgeries. 
In 2006, I experienced increasing pain and nerve problems, which were determined to be the result of Deterioration/Degeneration and Early Onset Osteoarthritis above the fusion region, mainly at the L4, L3 & L2. This was to be expected, just not as soon as it presented. These issues may be connected to my auto immune diseases - PsA & AS - which I began witnessing in late 2006/early 2007. And, most recently, in my search to find answers to my auto immune related symptoms, a new slip in my neck at the C6/7 was discovered during a MRI to rule out MS. While I do not have MS - which is beyond awesome - it was a shock to get the news of yet another Spondylolisthesis slip. I do feel very fortunate to have had this slip diagnosed much earlier in the progression, as it's currently estimated to be a grade 1/2. 


So, that's my story in the smallest nutshell I am capable of! LOL. :)


If you would like to read more about my story, please check out my Spondylolisthesis blog: Spondylolisthesis. And, if you would like to hear more extensive information and details regarding my recovery period, surgeries and the traction itself, please feel free to contact me at Healthandillness@gmail.com. 


- Brenna 


My Pre & Post Op X-Rays from 1997:


Brenna Pre-Op X-Ray Spondyloptosis
Brenna Post-Op X-Ray Grade 5 Fused



Share Your Spondylolisthesis Story!

Would you like to share your personal story and experiences involving Spondylolisthesis? I am currently seeking others to share their respective experiences with the spine condition; including symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, surgeries, and all of the details in-between. Have your voice be heard & help make a difference in other's lives by telling your story here! If you're interested, or would like to inquire further regarding this project and website, please contact Brenna through the Spondylolisthesis Facebook Page: FB.Spondylolisthesis, or email Brenna at spondyostories@gmail.com! I look forward to hearing from you and getting your story posted!

FB Comment Box. Please use this box to elaborate on your survey answers seen below.

Spondylo Polls

Please take a moment to review and answer the survey questions below! If you'd like to further elaborate on any of these polls questions/answers, please comment in the FB Comment Box or participate in the "Community Answers" section below. Thanks!

What grade is your Spondylolisthesis?

At which vertebrae is your Spondylolisthesis slip?

What is/has been most helpful in treating your pain associated with your Spondylolisthesis?

Have you had Laser Spine Surgery to treat your Spondylolisthesis?

Did one or more pregnancies cause your slip to progress in grade?

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