Guide to your spondylolisthesis diagnosis

The term spondylolisthesis describes a defect in which the spine is misaligned, as one vertebra slides forward over the vertebra below it. As a result of the slippage in the spine, there may be an abnormal curve in the upper lumbar spine known as a swayback, depending on the degree of movement. Spondylolisthesis is a common cause of back pain in children and adolescents but can affect older people as well.

Most likely, if spondylolisthesis is suspected, diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI scan, will be prescribed in order to pinpoint the exact location of the vertebral slippage. Medical imagery is also used to determine the degree of slippage, which can range on a scale from one to five. Learn more about the grades of spondylolisthesis as well as the treatment options available to help you find relief.

Grades of spondylolisthesis

Grade 1 spondylolisthesis represents up to a 25 percent movement of one vertebral body on its adjacent vertebra and typically occurs in the L4 and L5 segment of the spine. Grade 2 represents a 26 to 50 percent slide. Grade 1 and 2 are the most common forms of spondylolisthesis and are not considered very severe. Conservative treatments can typically relieve the discomfort associated with grade 1 and 2 spondylolisthesis.

Grade 3 spondylolisthesis is a 51 to 75 percent slide, however surgery may be an option if conservative therapies do not relieve your discomfort. Grade 4 means 76 to 100 percent movement and typically requires surgery to treat the instability in the spine and relieve the compression. Grade 5 is given the name spondyloptosis, which means the vertebra has completely moved off from its adjacent vertebra and requires immediate surgical intervention.

Conservative treatment options for spondylolisthesis

Once you are officially diagnosed, ask your doctor to create a personalized treatment plan. Treatment of spondylolisthesis typically includes noninvasive therapies such as:

  • Alternating hot and cold therapy, physical therapy and core-strengthening exercises
  • Mild stretching, yoga and gentle low-impact exercise like swimming or walking
  • Slow-release steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Pain medication, either prescription or over-the-counter

Conservative therapies are not effective for every patient. If you do respond to your physician’s conservative recommendations, surgical approaches may prove to be the only effective treatment options. Before agreeing to a highly invasive open spine procedure, it is important to explore all of the minimally invasive alternatives to traditional surgeries before undergoing any surgical intervention.

Minimally invasive treatment options for spondylolisthesis

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery,^ Laser Spine Institute performs minimally invasive decompression, and in severe cases, stabilization procedures, to strengthen the spine and alleviate the debilitating symptoms associated with spondylolisthesis.

We have a 3 percent complication rate, a 0.49 percent infection rate and offer no lengthy recovery^ when compared to traditional open spine surgery. Contact our dedicated team with any questions or concerns you may have about our outpatient procedures.

Our state-of-the-art procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from their chronic neck or back pain since 2005. At Laser Spine Institute, we are pleased to offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.