What is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that occurs when one of the vertebrae in your spinal column moves out of place, moving onto the vertebra below it. The word comes from a combination of Greek words; spondylos, which means “spine,” and listhesis, which means “to slip.” This condition can become very painful for the patient. If the vertebra moves out of alignment, it can put pressure on the nerves in the patient’s back. This can create lower back pain and pain in the patient’s legs. In some cases, it can cause the patient to lose control over his or her bladder or bowel. If this occurs, the patient should get medical help right away.

spondylolisthesis herniated disc

The Causes of Spondylolisthesis

Your spinal column is made up of vertebrae, which are held together by facet joints. These allow your spine to bend and twist with your movements. Spondylolisthesis occurs when the facet joints become weak, injured, or start to deteriorate with age. The vertebrae can then move out of place, though how far they move and the results will vary. Some of the causes of this condition include:

  • A congenital defect in the facet joints
  • Damaged joints from trauma or accident
  • Overuse injuries
  • Arthritis in the joint
  • Injection in the joint

This spinal condition can affect all ages; in fact, it can affect young children and teenagers who are involved in sports such as football, gymnastics, or weightlifting where there is a high amount of impact on their joints. That impact can cause stress fractures. Older adults can develop the condition due to the wear and tear on their body over the years, leading to fractures. Finally, the condition can occur when the ligaments that connect and stabilize the vertebrae are damaged or weakened and allow the vertebrae to slip out of place.

Spondylolisthesis is graded according to how much one vertebra slips compared to the adjacent vertebra:

  • Grade I – Less than 25 percent
  • Grade II – Between 25 and 50 percent
  • Grade III – Between 50 and 75 percent
  • Grade IV – More than 75 percent
  • Grade V – Spondyloptosis occurs when the vertebra has completely fallen off the next vertebra.

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