What is adult spondylolisthesis?

When it comes to spondylolisthesis, it involves one of the bones in the spine which slips forward and out of its proper place. This can occur on any part of the spine but quite common in the lower back. In some individuals, the condition will not cause any symptoms. Others experiences leg and back pain that can range from mild to severe.

What are the types of spondylolisthesis?

There are various types of spondylolisthesis that affect adults. The two most common types are spondylolytic and degenerative. There are also other uncommon types such as slippage that is caused by a recent tumor or severe fracture.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis


The most common symptom in the leg is a feeling of vague weakness linked with prolonged walking or standing.

As an individual starts to age, wear and tear can cause changes in the spine. The intervertebral disks start to dry out and weaken, eventually losing height while stiffening and starting to bulge out. The degeneration of the disk will instigate the start of both arthritis and degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Spondylolytic spondylolisthesis

When one of the bones in the lower back breaks, this can cause a vertebra to slip forward. The break often occurs in the pars interarticularlis. In most cases of this form of spondylolisthesis, the pars fracture is not noticed until adulthood. The normal degeneration of the disk that occurs in adulthood will add stress on the pars fracture and cause the vertebra to slip forward.


Those who have the degenerative type will consult a doctor once the slippage adds pressure on the spinal nerves. The individual can develop leg or lower back pain. The most common symptom in the leg is a feeling of vague weakness linked with prolonged walking or standing.

The leg symptoms can occur along with numbness, tingling or even pain that is often influenced by posture. Headfirst bending or sitting every so often alleviates the symptoms since it frees up space in the spinal canal. Walking or standing often aggravates the symptoms.

As for spondylolytic spondylolisthesis, it will not cause pain and the individual is often surprised to discover that they have a slipped disc on the X-ray result. A doctor is consulted due to low back pain that occurs during activities. Take note that the back pain is oftentimes accompanied by leg pain.


Even though non-surgical treatment options will not repair the slippage, the symptoms can be relieved by these measures. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics can be given to help relieve the pain. Exercise and physical therapy can strengthen and stretch the lower back and abdominal muscles. If you want to learn more about pain management measures, read here.

In some cases, the doctor will recommend cortisone injections administered around the nerves or in the epidural space to help reduce the swelling and pain. Just remember that these injections should not be given more than 3 times in a year. These injections are likely to reduce the pain and numbness but will not weaken the legs.


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