European Spine Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 327–335 | Cite as

Diagnosis and conservative management of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis

  • Leonid Kalichman
  • David J. Hunter


Degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) is a disorder that causes the slip of one vertebral body over the one below due to degenerative changes in the spine. Lumbar DS is a major cause of spinal canal stenosis and is often related to low back and leg pain. We reviewed the symptoms, prognosis and conservative treatments for symptoms associated with DS. PubMed and MEDLINE databases (1950–2007) were searched for the key words “spondylolisthesis”, “pseudospondylolisthesis”, “degenerative spondylolisthesis”, “spinal stenosis”, “lumbar spine”, “antherolisthesis”, “posterolisthesis”, “low back pain”, and “lumbar instability”. All relevant articles in English were reviewed. Pertinent secondary references were also retrieved. The prognosis of patients with DS is favorable, however, those who suffer from neurological symptoms such as intermittent claudication or vesicorectal disorder, will most probably experience neurological deterioration if they are not operated upon. Nonoperative treatment should be the initial course of action in most cases of DS, with or without neurologic symptoms. Treatment options include use of analgesics and NSAIDs to control pain; epidural steroid injections, and physical methods such as bracing and flexion strengthening exercises. An up-to-date knowledge on diagnosis and prevention of lumbar DS can assist in determination of future research goals. Additional studies are required to establish treatment protocols for the conservative treatment of DS.


Degenerative spondylolisthesis Diagnosis Treatment Lumbar spine 



L. K. is supported by an Arthritis Foundation Postdoctoral Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training UnitBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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