The Journal of Physical Therapy Science published the results of a case study in their January 2021 issue that documented the case of a man who was forced to retire from playing ice hockey due to a spinal problem known as spondylolisthesis. After chiropractic care, the man was once again able to resume playing hockey.
This case involves a condition known as spondylolisthesis. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline, “Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a bone (vertebra) in the spine moves forward out of the proper position onto the bone below it.” If it places pressure on a nerve, it can cause pain. This condition is most common in the lower portion of the spine.
In this case, a 57-year-old man sought out chiropractic care for his severe lower back pain. The man was an avid ice hockey player. He reported that in the past ten years, he had sustained multiple injuries every year while engaged in his sport. Over time, his lower back pain had continually gotten so severe that he was forced to retire from the sport he had enjoyed for 50 years.
The man also reported that he had been involved in three previous auto accidents. The care he had received for his back problems included massage, medications, and physical therapy, which provided only limited temporary relief. In addition to his lower back pain, the man also suffered with high blood pressure, leg cramping, and ringing in the ears.
A chiropractic examination was performed which revealed a limited range of motion in all directions in the man’s back. Upon attempting to bend backward, his pain would increase. Palpation of the spine showed significant tenderness in the lower back musculature. Spinal x-rays of the man’s lower back showed that the L3 vertebrae had moved backward while the L4 vertebrae had moved forward compared to normal positioning.
Specific forms of chiropractic care were started with regular visits over a 7-month period. Follow-up examinations and x-rays were regularly performed to document changes. The x-rays taken over the time of care showed continual improvement in the positioning of the lumbar vertebrae.
During an assessment after three months of care, the man reported that his lower back pain and leg pain were substantially improved. After 7 months of care, the x-rays showed that the vertebrae had returned to their normal position. At this point, the man reported that his back and leg pain was not bothering him at all. As a result of his dramatic improvement, the man was able to resume playing hockey again. In a follow-up done a year and a half later, the man reported that he was feeling fine and had completed a season of injury-free hockey for the first time in ten years.
In the discussion section of the study, the authors noted the importance of this case study by stating, “This case is important as it shows that non-surgical, non-invasive manual therapy approaches may be proven to reliably reduce low-grade lumbar spondylolisthesis and represents only the second case reported in the literature showing the reduction of a lumbar spondylolisthesis; the first showing reduction of a double spondylolisthesis.”