Back Pain Caused by Moved Vertebrae


Back pain is an indicator of a problem with the bone structure or musculature of the back. Due to the delicate nature of the spinal column, anything from muscle strains to injuries to poor body mechanics and overuse can cause back pain to strike. Back pain caused by moved vertebrae can occur with or without symptoms or dysfunction.


  • The spinal bones can move or slip out of position, which results in back pain caused by moved vertebrae. This problem, called spondylolisthesis, can occur with an injury, degeneration or by excessive stress to the back area caused by poor body mechanics or muscle spasms.

    Muscle spasms or tightness can create an abnormal pull on the bones, causing them to shift out of position. Spondylolisthesis can put pressure on the network of nerves which runs out of the spinal bones, or result in a narrowing of the spinal canal (the location of the spinal disc).


  • To diagnose back pain caused by moved vertebrae a full physical examination and specialized testing such as X-rays should be performed. The amount of spondylolisthesis or movement is then graded. Grading is dependent on the amount of slippage that has occurred. A grade 1, for example, represents a 25% shift. Grade 4 equates to 75% or more slippage.


  • Back pain caused by a shifted spinal bone may or may not produce pain. However, common pain symptoms include back stiffness and discomfort. Depending on the area of the slippage, pain can radiate into the shoulders and arms or into the buttocks and down the leg. Other common indicators include numbness and tingling, muscle spasms and weakness.


  • Treatment of acute back pain includes control of inflammation or swelling and rest of the area. Once initial pain has subsided, a comprehensive exercise program, including back and abdominal strengthening with continued pain management, will help with the return to normal activities. Severe cases may require the use of steroid injections to manage chronic inflammation, or surgery to fix unstable spinal bones.


  • The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy; Robert Berkow, MD, Editor-in-Chief; 1987
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