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L4 l5 spondylosis: Lumbar spondylosis – Physiopedia

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Treatment & Surgery

Spondylolisthesis – Degenerative

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition in which one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below. Degenerative spondylolisthesis, usually occurs in the lumbar spine, especially at L4-L5. It is the result of degenerative changes in the vertebral structure that cause the joints between the vertebrae to slip forward. This type of spondylolisthesis is most common among older female patients, usually those over the age of 60.

Symptoms of spondylolisthesis may include the following:

  • Pain, especially after exercise, in the low back, thighs, and/or legs that radiates into the buttocks and/or down the legs (sciatica)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Leg weakness
  • Tight hamstring muscles
  • Irregular gait or limp

Some people with spondylolisthesis are symptom free and only discover the disorder when seeing a doctor for another health problem. However, the forward slip of the vertebral body in severe cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis often leads to spinal stenosis, nerve compression, pain and neurological injury.

What Causes Degenerative Spondylolisthesis?

Degenerative spondylolisthesis is usually the result of age and “wear and tear” on the spine that breaks down vertebral components. It is different from isthmic spondylolisthesis in that there is no bone defect. Spinal stenosis tends to occur in the early stages of degenerative spondylolisthesis.


Correct diagnosis is obviously essential. Dr. Lonner utilizes the latest diagnostic technologies, combined with examinations by expert physicians, to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate. Diagnostic tools include:

  • Medical history. You will be asked about your symptoms, their severity, and the treatments you have already tried.
  • Physical examination. You will be carefully examined for limitations of movement, problems with balance, pain, loss of reflexes in the extremities, muscle weakness, loss of sensation or other signs of neurological damage.
  • Diagnostic tests. Generally, we start with x-rays, which allow us to rule out other problems such as tumors and infections. We may also use a CT scan or MRI to confirm the diagnosis. In some patients a myelogram will be used. This is a test that involves the use of a liquid dye that is injected into the spinal column to show the degree of nerve compression, slippage between involved vertebrae, and abnormal movement.

Classification of Spondylolisthesis

There are several methods used to “grade” the degree of slippage ranging from mild to most severe. We will discuss with you the extent of your spondylolisthesis.

In general, physicians use the Meyerding Grading System for classifying slips. This is a relatively easy to understand system. Slips are graded on the basis of the percentage that one vertebral body has slipped forward over the vertebral body below. Thus a Grade I slip indicates that 1-24% of the vertebral body has slipped forward over the body below. Grade II indicates a 25-49% slip. Grade III indicates a 50-74% slip and Grade IV indicates a 75%-99% slip. If the body completely slips off the body below it is classified as a Grade V slip, known as spondyloptosis.

Dr. Lonner will consider the degree of slip, and such factors as intractable pain and neurological symptoms, when deciding on the most suitable treatment. Most degenerative spondylolisthesis cases involve Grade I or Grade II. As a general guideline, the more severe slips (especially Grades III and above) are most likely to require surgical intervention.

Non-Operative Treatment

For most cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis (especially Grades I and II), treatment consists of temporary bed rest, restriction of the activities that caused the onset of symptoms, pain/ anti-inflammatory medications, steroid-anesthetic injections, physical therapy and/or spinal bracing.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis can be progressive – meaning the damage will continue to get worse as time goes on. In addition, degenerative spondylolisthesis can cause stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal and spinal cord compression. If the stenosis is severe, and all non-operative treatments have failed, surgery may be necessary.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is rarely needed unless the case is severe (usually Grade III or above), neurological damage has occurred, the pain is disabling, or all non-operative treatment options have failed.

The most common surgical procedure used to treat spondylolisthesis is called a laminectomy and fusion. In this procedure, the spinal canal is widened by removing or trimming the laminae (roof) of the vertebrae. This is done to create more space for the nerves and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. The surgeon may also need to fuse vertebrae together. If fusion is done, various devices (like screws or interbody cages) may be implanted to enhance fusion and support the unstable spine.

Patient Story of Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Explaining Spinal Disorders: Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Home > Conditions > Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition in which one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below. Degenerative spondylolisthesis usually occurs in the lumbar (low back) spine, more commonly at L4-L5 (4th and 5th lumbar vertebral levels). Spondylolisthesis can result from degenerative changes in the vertebral structure that causes the joints between the vertebrae to slip forward and may lead to spinal stenosis. Degenerative spondylolisthesis is most common among older female patients, usually over age 60.

Slip of L5 vertebra on sacrum


Some people with spondylolisthesis are symptom-free and discover the disorder when seeing their doctor for another health problem. Symptoms may include:

  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica ?Muscle spasms
  • Leg weakness
  • Tight hamstring muscles
  • Irregular gait or limp


Our comprehensive diagnostic process includes:

  • Medical history. The doctor asks you questions about your symptoms, their severity, and treatments you have already tried.
  • Physical examination. You are carefully examined for limitations of movement, problems with balance, and pain. During the exam, the doctor looks for loss of reflexes, muscle weakness, loss of sensation or other signs of neurological injury.
  • Diagnostic tests. Most doctors start with x-rays. Spondylolisthesis is easily seen on a lateral (side) lumbar x-ray. If necessary, a CT scan or MRI may be ordered to see the spine’s tissues in greater detail.

X-ray showing spondylolosthesis

Lumbar spine MRI showing spondylolosthesis

Classification of Spondylolisthesis

Information from your medical file and imaging studies is used to grade the degree of vertebral slippage from mild to severe. The grade of your spondylolisthesis is explained to you along with what it means.

Doctors use the Meyerding Grading System to classify the degree of vertebral slippage. This system is easy to understand. Slips are graded on the basis of the percentage that one vertebral body has slipped forward over the vertebral body below.

  • Grade I: 1-24%
  • Grade II: 25-49%
  • Grade III: 50-74%
  • Grade IV: 75%-99% slip.
  • Grade V: Complete slip (100%), known as spondyloptosis

Your doctor considers the degree of slip and factors, such as intractable pain and neurological symptoms, when deciding on the most suitable treatment. Most cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis are Grade I or II. As a general guideline, the more severe slips (Grades III and above) are most likely to require surgical intervention.

Nonoperative Treatment

Most cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis are treated without surgery. Treatment may include:

  • Short-term bed rest
  • Activity restriction
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Steroid injections (i. e. epidural steroid injection)
  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing

Degenerative spondylolisthesis can be progressive. This means the spondylolisthesis worsens with time and may cause spinal stenosis. This is why it is important to follow-up with your doctor to monitor your treatment progress and spondylolisthesis.


If your degenerative spondylolisthesis progresses or causes neurologic problems, such as incontinence, surgery may be recommended. Spinal instrumentation (i.e. rods, screws) and fusion (bone graft) are common procedures performed to stop slip progression and stabilize the spine. There are different types of instrumentation, bone graft and graft products, as well as procedures (some minimally invasive) to surgically treat degenerative spondylolisthesis. Your surgeon will explain how your surgery will be performed, as well as the benefits and risks of the procedure.

Bone model showing interbody cages, screws and rods


Degenerative spondylolisthesis does not mean you have to live in pain. We can help you return to a healthy, pain-free and active life. For most patients this is accomplished with nonsurgical treatments. But, even if surgery is needed, be assured we will discuss all procedure risks and benefits and provide you with the best possible care.

In addition treatments, our medical professionals have a deep commitment to patient education. By helping you understand the cause of your condition, we can help you eliminate risk factors and instill spine healthy habits for a lifetime. While you are under our care, our medical staff will provide you with excellent information to help you recover, minimize risk factors, and stay healthy.


Spondylosis of the lumbosacral spine, symptoms, causes and treatment

Spondylosis of the lumbosacral spine is a disease that is characterized by damage to the joints of the lower back, the growth of osteophytes. Bone formations appear mainly along the anterior edge of the vertebrae, and the lateral regions are also affected. The pathological process is associated with excessive loads, unsatisfactory physical condition of a person. In parallel with this, muscle spasm is observed, which limits mobility in the lumbosacral region. If there is no adequate treatment, then the bone growths become larger, infringe on the nerve roots and spinal cord.

The information in this section should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. In case of pain or other exacerbation of the disease, only the attending physician should prescribe diagnostic tests. For diagnosis and proper treatment, you should contact a specialist.

Symptoms of the disease, signs

The initial stage of lumbar spondylosis proceeds almost imperceptibly. In the modern rhythm of life, many people do not pay attention to the slight stiffness in movement. The further the disease develops, the more noticeable the symptoms become:

  • soreness in the loins, buttocks and legs;
  • lameness, intense discomfort in calf muscles;
  • inability to fully bend over.

The pain gets worse in the evening, and also when trying to move more or less actively. Often a person has to take forced postures. At 2-3 stages progress:

  • paresthesia;
  • loss of sensation of the skin of the buttocks;
  • Difficulty in movements of the knee joints, leg abduction in the hip joints.

With an increase in the duration of the disease, the symptoms of spondylosis of the lumbosacral spine become more acute and interfere with a normal lifestyle. In some cases, the signs of pathology intensify when the weather changes.

It is important to distinguish osteochondrosis from spondylosis. With osteochondrosis, pain with pressure on the spinous processes is not noted. And for spondylosis, this is a characteristic manifestation. When it affects the lumbosacral spine, predominantly L3-L5 suffer. Osteochondrosis in most cases affects the L5-S1 vertebrae.

Causes of lumbar spondylosis

Pathological growth of bone tissue is caused by degenerative changes that lead to a deterioration in the mobility of the spinal column. They are provoked by:

  • direct and indirect injuries of the local muscle-ligament apparatus;
  • prolonged stay in a physiologically incorrect position;
  • dynamic loads on the muscles with obvious hypodynamia;
  • infectious lesions;
  • neoplasms;
  • genetic predisposition;
  • overweight.

Cause the development of spondylosis age-related changes in the tissues of the spine, as well as constitutional predisposition. Abnormal growth of the bone structure can be observed under the influence of oncological diseases. Both hypo- and hyperdynamia pose a certain health hazard.

Effective treatments

The prescribed therapy should take into account the special properties of the human body. Treatment methods for lumbar spondylosis are aimed at: restoring a full blood supply; improvement of the condition of cartilage tissue; elimination of pain; strengthening muscles and ligaments.

Therapy includes pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. Among medicines positive effect is exerted by:

  • NSAIDs;
  • muscle relaxants;
  • preparations of natural cartilage components.

If the lumbar region is affected, spondylosis responds well to physiotherapeutic methods:

  • acupuncture;
  • ultrasound;
  • paraffin packs;
  • manual therapy;
  • massage.

After relief of acute pain, exercise therapy is started. Therapeutic gymnastics has a restorative and healing effect.

What if the disease is not treated?!

With timely diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis is quite favorable. However, attempts to independently stop the pain syndrome or ignore the symptoms lead to the progression of the pathology. Over time:

  • limbs become numb;
  • mobility is sharply limited;
  • muscles atrophy;
  • partial or complete immobilization occurs.

Lumbar spondylosis responds well to treatment. It is important to contact a competent specialist who will make an accurate diagnosis and individually select a comprehensive treatment regimen.

Lumbar spondylosis – symptoms, causes, treatment

A neurologist treats this disease.

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Spinal spondylosis is a chronic disease resulting from degenerative-dystrophic processes of the fibrous ring of the intervertebral disc. Spondylosis is one of the types of osteopathies – diseases grouped according to common characteristic features: dystrophy of the structures of the spine, pain syndrome, limitation of mobility. It affects all parts of the spinal column, but most often the lumbosacral.

CMRT specialist tells

Kuchenkov A.V.

Orthopedist • Traumatologist • Surgeon • Phlebologist • Sports doctor • 25 years of experience

Publication date: May 18, 2021

Verification date: January 10, 2023

All facts have been verified by a doctor.

Contents of the article

    Causes of spondylosis

    Symptoms of spondylosis of the lumbosacral spine

    The initial stage of the disease is characterized by a latent course. As the pathological process progresses, symptoms appear:

    • Limited mobility in the lumbar spine.
    • Unpleasant sensations in the buttocks and thighs after prolonged exertion on the legs
    • Pain in the back after prolonged static posture

    Deforming spondylosis of the lumbar spine gives the following symptoms:

    • Lumbar pain when turning the body, when walking down stairs
    • Lameness when pain radiates to the lower extremities

    Antespondylolisthesis (displacement of the vertebrae relative to each other) causes pinching of the nerves of the “cauda equina”, which is located in the lower parts of the spinal cord. In the clinical picture, neurological symptoms come to the fore:

    • Severe pain in the perineum, in the legs
    • Development of paresthesia – a feeling of numbness, tingling, burning below the level of damage to the spinal segment: lower back, buttocks, legs
    • Increasing weakness of the muscles of the lower extremities
    • Disorder of the pelvic organs: violation of the process of urination, defecation

    Stages of development of spondylosis

    The process of degenerative changes in intervertebral discs with the formation of osteophytes successively goes through several stages:

    I stage. There are initial changes in the fibrous tissues of the intervertebral disc: cracks, fractures, decreased elasticity. Single spiny bone growths (osteophytes) do not extend beyond the vertebral bodies. Symptoms characteristic of spondylosis of the lumbosacral spine are absent, the patient may sometimes be bothered by minor pain in the lumbar region.

    Stage II. Active proliferation of osteophytes continues. Mobility in the damaged spinal segment decreases, pains join, the intensity of which increases with physical exertion, hypothermia.

    Stage III . Complete destruction of cartilage. Bone growths, increasing in size, merge into rough osteophyte complexes connecting two or more vertebrae. This disrupts the normal mobility of the lumbar spine. When osteophytes compress the nerve roots of the spinal cord, neurological disorders develop, aggravated by a severe pain syndrome.

    How to diagnose

    If spinal spondylosis is suspected, diagnostics include:

    • Collection of patient complaints, as well as information about the onset and course of the disease
    • Clinical examination by a doctor with assessment of neurological status
    • Instrumental examination: X-ray in frontal and lateral projection x, CT, MRI can detect pathological changes in bone, cartilage, soft tissues in the early stages.