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- Patient Comments: Spondylolisthesis - Symptoms
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- Spondylolisthesis facts
- What is spondylolisthesis?
- What causes spondylolisthesis?
- What are the risk factors for spondylolisthesis?
- What are spondylolisthesis symptoms?
- How is spondylolisthesis diagnosed? How is the grading determined for spondylolisthesis?
- What is the treatment for spondylolisthesis? What type of surgery treats spondylolisthesis?
- Is it possible to prevent spondylolisthesis?
- What are the complications of spondylolisthesis?
- What is the prognosis for spondylolisthesis?
What are the risk factors for spondylolisthesis?
Risk factors for spondylolisthesis include a family history of back problems. People who are born with a defect in the pars interarticularis bone in the spine (a condition called spondylolysis) are at increased risk of isthmic spondylolisthesis. Other risk factors include a history of repetitive trauma or hyperextension of the lower back or lumbar spine. Athletes such as gymnasts, weight lifters, and football linemen who have large forces applied to the spine during extension are at greater risk for developing isthmic spondylolisthesis.
What are spondylolisthesis symptoms?
The most common symptom of spondylolisthesis is lower back pain. This is often worse after exercise especially with extension of the lumbar spine. Other symptoms include tightness of the hamstrings and decreased range of motion of the lower back. Some patients can develop pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs due to nerve compression. Severe compression of the nerves can cause loss of control of bowel or bladder function, or cauda equina syndrome.
How is spondylolisthesis diagnosed? How is the grading determined for spondylolisthesis?
Usually, it is not possible to see visible signs of spondylolisthesis by examining a patient. Patients typically have complaints of pain in the back with intermittent pain to the legs. Spondylolisthesis can often cause muscle spasms, or tightness in the hamstrings.
Spondylolisthesis is easily identified using plain radiographs. A lateral X-ray (from the side) will show if one of the vertebra has slipped forward compared to the adjacent vertebrae. Spondylolisthesis is graded according the percentage of slip of the vertebra compared to the neighboring vertebra.
- Grade I is a slip of up to 25%.
- Grade II is between 26%-50%.
- Grade III is between 51%-75%.
- Grade IV is between 76%-100%.
- Grade V, or spondyloptosis, occurs when the vertebra has completely fallen off the next vertebra.
If the patient has complaints of pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs, additional studies may be ordered. These symptoms could be caused by stenosis, or narrowing of the space for the nerve roots to the legs. A CT scan or MRI scan can help identify compression of the nerves associated with spondylolisthesis. Occasionally, a PET scan can help determine if the bone at the site of the defect is active. This can play a role in treatment options for spondylolisthesis as described below.