Spondylolisthesis  is Latin for “slipped vertebral body,” and it is diagnosed when one vertebra slips forward over the one below it. It is one of those condition that can be present in both younger and aging individuals. Even though it will not necessarily cause pain to an individual, it is important to know what are its common associated symptoms and what it can potentially lead to.

There are several types of spondylolisthesis. Isthmic and degenerative types are the more common type. Isthmic spondylolisthesis common in younger individuals with low back symptoms while degenerative type is more likely to be present in an elderly. This is because degenerative spondylilosthesis often present with osteoarthritis in the spine. This condition is most common seen in the lower spine region (lumbosacral area).

Spondylolisthesis has different degree of severity. Grade 1 being least advanced, and grade 5 being most advanced. It is graded by measuring how much of a vertebral body has slipped forward over the body beneath it. In some severe cases, a slipped vertebral body may lead to spinal cord or nerve roots impingement.



Some clinical features of spondylolisthesis

  • Most clinical features depend upon the causative lesion, and the degree of displacement.
  • If the spondylolisthesis is due to under-development of articular process, or a defect in the pars intercularis – the person is usually an younger adult or adolescent. However, if it is due to osteoarthritic degeneration of the facet joints – the individual is usually over 50 years of age.
  • The symptoms experienced by a person with spondylolisthesis depend upon the degree of displacement.  Most common symptom is chronic backache.
  • If the displacement is severe enough to cause nerve impingement, they may also experience sciatica. However, the deformity can be entirely symptomless in some cases.
  • The pain is usually worse in standing.
  • A visible and/or palpable “step” above L5 spinous process.
  • There is usually no significant restriction in low back movement.
  • When severe, it can irritate a nerve root.

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