Spondylolisthesis

Man in bed with hurt back

Spondylolisthesis means a vertebra in the spine has either slipped forward or backward onto the bone directly beneath it. While it most often occurs in the lower back, it can happen anywhere in the spine. 

If the vertebra has slipped backward due to severe arthritis, it’s a condition called retrolisthesis. If a vertebra has moved forward because of a congenital disability or traumatic injury, it’s a condition known as forward anterolisthesis. 

Spondylolisthesis symptoms

Symptoms of spondylolisthesis include:

  • Back stiffness

  • Leg weakness 

  • Lower back pain

  • Tight hamstring muscles

  • Tingling, numbness or pain into the buttocks, thigh, or legs

Spondylolisthesis diagnosis

To diagnose spondylolisthesis, your doctor may use one or more of the following tests:

  • CT scans—a scan that creates detailed pictures of the bones and soft tissue of the spine. 

  • MRI scans—an imaging test that produces images of soft tissue around the bones of the spine.

  • X-rays—an imaging test that looks at the vertebra of the spine.

Spondylolisthesis treatment 

Treatment for spondylolisthesis depends on the severity of the pain and if there is neural entrapment (compression on the nerves). 

Treatment options include:

  • Bracing—wearing a brace to support the spine.

  • Facet joint injections—pain medication is injected into the affected nerve. 

  • Epidural steroid injections—a steroid medication is injected into the spinal area.

  • Pain medication—medications that relieve discomfort, swelling and inflammation, such as NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories).

  • Physical therapy—exercises to strengthen the spine muscles and improve range of motion.  

  • Rest—reducing activity to allow the affected area to heal. 

  • Radiofrequency ablation—an electrical current is used to heat the nerve tissue to reduce pain. 

  • Surgery—if the condition is resistant to the above non-surgical options or has caused damage to the nerves, a surgical procedure may be required. The Christ Hospital Health Network offers the following surgical options for spondylolisthesis:

    • Anterior lumbar fusion (ALIF)—a procedure performed through the front of the body (abdominal area) that fuses the lumbar spine together.

    • Posterior lumbar fusion (PLIF)—a surgery that fuses the lumbar spine together along the sides of the bone.

    • Transforaminal lumbar fusion (TLIF)—a procedure that fuses the front and the back columns of the spine together.

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, our physicians and specialists have the experience and skill to diagnose and treat spondylolisthesis, so you can get back to an active lifestyle.

Find a back (spine) and neck specialist near you.