Spondylolisthesis

The term spondylolisthesis comes from the Greek words spondylo, for vertebrae, and listhesis, to slide on an incline.  Spondylolisthesis commonly occurs in the lower back, which bears more weight and frequently experiences more twisting.  Therefore, this condition is more prevalent in athletes and those who exercise.

Causes

  • Degeneration

  • Fractures

  • Congenital defect

  • Tumors

Symptoms

  • Mechanical: low back pain

  • Compressive: radiating nerve pain

Diagnosis

Spondylolisthesis is often discovered on x-ray, as you may not even be experiencing symptoms of pain or discomfort.  The x-ray will determine a grade of slippage:

  • Grade 1: 0–25%

  • Grade 2: 25–50%

  • Grade 3: 50–75%

  • Grade 4: 75–100%

  • Grade 5: Over 100% (the vertebra completely falls off the supporting vertebra – spondyloptosis)

Treatment

Depending on the degree of slippage and resulting symptoms, your doctor may suggest physical therapy and/or medications.  Surgery is only recommended if those conservative treatments do not alleviate pain.  A laminectomy can relieve nerve pressure, and a fusion may be indicated to improve spinal stability.