The Different Types Of Spondylolisthesis

woman with spondylolisthesis

Did you know that there are different types or classifications of spondylolisthesis?  Many people aren’t aware that if you have a spondylolisthesis it could be one of many types.

I was the same way, I had no clue, but as I researched more I began to understand that knowing what type of spondylolisthesis you have can be very beneficial in your recovery.

Once diagnosed, your physician will most likely obtain x-ray images and provide you with a grade to your spondylolisthesis.

It is important to note that types and grades are different terms. Many people get these two terms confused and intertwined.

spondylolisthesis grade is basically a score given to describe the severity of your slip located within the spine.  The type, however, can provide valuable insight to the cause of your spondylolisthesis.

Like many others that I have talked too, this information was not explained to me. I was not told that there were different kinds of spondy’s or how I even got my spondy.  I was under the impression I just had a condition that was painful with no cure.

But with a little research I began to learn about the different types of spondy’s and the age groups and type of people they affect.  I also learned you CAN feel better with the right knowledge and plan of attack.

When explaining the different types of spondy’s to people we commonly use the classification system adapted from Wiltse et al(1).

This classification system has 5 different kinds of spondy’s……

1. Isthmic

The most common type of spondylolisthesis especially amongst adolescent athletes, isthmic spondy’s can be caused by either an acute fracture or stress fracture (fatigue in the bone resulting in a fracture over time).

Studies have shown anywhere between 5-10% of Americans have isthmic spondy’s.  And 90% of those affected are grades 1 or 2.

2. Degenerative

Degenerative spondy’s are commonly caused by instability between vertebrae which can cause degenerative changes to the pars interarticularis which can eventually lead to a fracture and slippage.

Sometimes degenerative spondy’s do not involve a break, but just a slip of one vertebrae over another.

Degenerative spondy’s are most prevalent in individuals over 40 and are more common in women due to the higher rate of osteoporosis in the female community.

3. Dysplastic

This type of spondy is due to a birth defect of the pars interarticularis (a portion of the vertebrae) that eventually allows for slippage to occur.

When compared to isthmic spondy’s, dysplastic spondy’s are quite rare.

4. Traumatic

Traumatic spondy’s occur as a result of a fracture to structures other than the pars interarticularis.

This type of spondy is even rarer than the dysplastic.

5. Pathologic

Pathologic spondy’s occur as a result of damage from bone disease thus leading to slippage.

Pathologic spondy’s are also very rare.

In our experience, most of the spondy’s we see fall into the category of isthmic with degenerative being a distant second.  The other three classifications are very rare when compared to isthmic and degenerative.

Your physician is the one who can help you to determine the type of your spondylolisthesis. Have a discussion with them if you have any questions so you can learn as much information as possible about your specific type of spondylolisthesis.

Do you know what kind of spondylolisthesis you have? We would love to hear about it in the comment section below.

1. Wiltse L, Widell E, Jackson D. Fatigue fracture: The basic lesion is isthmic spondylolisthesis. J Bone Joint Surg. 1975;57:17-22.

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