Spondylolisthesis

What is it?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when the joints that keep your vertebrae lined up weaken, causing the bones to move out of alignment, resulting in one of your vertebrae slipping out of its proper place and onto the vertebrae below it. If the vertebra slips too much it may cause your spinal cord or nerve roots to be pinched, causing pain. In very rare cases, you can lose control over your bladder or bowels, possibly requiring surgery.

Who is affected?

Children and teens that play sports, especially gymnastics and weight lifting. Spondylolisthesis is especially common in teens during their growth spurt. Older adults are susceptible due to wear and tear that can lead to stress fractures. Spondylolisthesis can also occur without stress fractures due to worn out discs and joints that wear down and slip out of place.

Symptoms

  • Low back and leg pain
  • Buttock pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • Shooting pain from lower back down one or both legs
  • Weakness or numbness in one or both legs
  • Tenderness in area of slipped disc
  • Muscle tightness and stiffness
  • Muscle spasms across low back
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

*It is important to note that some people may not experience any symptoms at all and may not know that they have Spondylolisthesis.

Causes

Spondylolisthesis can be hereditary. Periods of rapid growth can cause slippage, commonly seen among teens. In adults, abnormal wear on bones and cartilage (often caused by arthritis) can cause spondylolisthesis. Bone disease and fractures can also cause spondylolisthesis

Grades

Spondylolisthesis is rated by the degree of slippage. A radiologist will determine the degree of slippage after reviewing the spinal x-ray, CT scan, and/or MRI.

  • Grade I – 1 to 25 percent slip
  • Grade II – 26 to 50 percent slip
  • Grade III – 51 to 75 percent slip
  • Grade IV – 76 to 100 percent

Grades I and II generally do not require surgery and can be treated medically. Grades III and IV may require surgery.