Spondylolisthesis: An Introduction

Notice the anterior displacement of L4 with respect to L5.

Spondylolisthesis describes the forward or backward movement of one vertebra with respect to adjacent segment. It is a common cause of chronic pain. This movement is usually due to degenerative arthritis involving the facet joints and usually has the effect of narrowing the central canal and may have the effect of narrowing one or both of the neural foramina formed by the two vertebrae. Symptoms include both axial and radicular back pain. The radicular symptoms may be dermatomal mimicking pure foramenal stenosis, in cases where the narrowing of the neural foramen is more severe or nondermatomal mimicking pure spinal stenosis, in cases where the central narrowing is paramount. Treatment options include epidural steroid injections, physical therapy and surgery. In the case of surgery spinal fusion is often required to relieve nerve root compression and prevent progression of the spondylolisthesis.

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