Degenerative spondylolisthesis

We will improve your quality of life

Degenerative changes in the spine can lead to slippage of one vertebra on the next, leading to the development of back and leg pain, numbness in the legs and reduced mobility.

At Schoen Clinic, our spine specialists will help you to relieve your pain significantly and improve your quality of life.

How degenerative spondylolisthesis develops?

Degenerative spondylolisthesis: Symptoms of the disorder

Symptoms may include lower back pain and pain in the thighs and buttocks, stiffness, muscle tightness and discomfort in the area of the slippage.

When nerves are compressed they can produce symptoms of pain, numbness or tingling in the area of the leg that the particular spinal nerve supplies. In rare cases, they can produce severe pain and even weakness in the legs, such that the ‘legs do not work’. In most cases, the symptoms are experienced when standing or walking and are relieved by sitting or bending forward. In rare cases, the nerves which control your bladder, bowel and sexual function can be compressed. This is known as cauda equina syndrome (CES) and often requires urgent surgical intervention. Fortunately, immediate spinal surgery is only necessary in a few cases.

Causes of degenerative spondylolisthesis

Degenerative spondylolisthesis is the forward slippage of one lumbar vertebra on the vertebra below. The slippage occurs as a result of wear and tear in the joints at the back of the spine. The degree of spondylolisthesis may vary from mild to severe. The slippage of the vertebrae creates narrowing of the spinal canal/spinal stenosis. In lumbar spinal stenosis, the spinal nerve roots and/or cauda equina (spinal nerves) become compressed.

Diagnosing degenerative spondylolisthesis requires experience

There are many symptoms which are linked to the spondylolisthesis and the spinal canal stenosis meaning the condition can often be overlooked. With thorough diagnostic tests, we can find the cause of your symptoms and initiate the appropriate treatment.

Every diagnosis at Schoen Clinic London begins with an extensive consultation and a thorough physical examination. After assessment we can confirm the diagnosis with imaging methods and precisely determine the level and extent of the spondylolisthesis and associated stenosis.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis can be seen on an X-ray of the spine. Other tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are required to look at the nerves and the spine in more detail. In this procedure, we can optimally visualise the spinal canal and the neural structures such as the spinal cord and nerve roots that pass through it. On occasions we may have to perform other tests such as a CT scan or neurophysiology testing prior to intervention.

We will develop an individual treatment plan to relieve your pain

Once we have diagnosed that you have a degenerative spondylolisthesis with associated spinal canal stenosis, we will use various treatment methods, depending on the severity and the symptoms. Our consultants and therapists will develop an individual treatment plan for you.


If the slippage and the narrowing of the vertebral canal are not yet very advanced, conservative measures such as physiotherapy can often help. The goal of our treatment programme is to relieve your pain significantly and improve your quality of life. In some cases, spinal injections, performed as a day-case procedure, may be appropriate and can relieve some of the acute pain.

Surgical treatment for degenerative spondylolisthesis

In some cases, conservative treatments (e.g. manipulation, physiotherapy, medication or injections) may not provide long-term benefit. A decompression operation and in some cases a fusion procedure of the spine may also be required.

The objective of surgery is to remove the material that causes the compression/stenosis and to give the nerve roots and/or cauda equina more room. Your surgeon will discuss with you whether there is a need to perform a fusion of the spine at the time of the operation.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis: Rehabilitation after surgery

It is very normal to experience some level of discomfort/pain after the surgery. Our experienced nursing and medical staff will help you to control this with appropriate medication. The symptoms in your legs may fluctuate due to increased swelling around the nerves. This can take a few weeks to settle therefore, it is important not to suddenly stop taking certain pain relief medication. Our ward physiotherapist will visit you after the operation to teach you exercises and help you out of bed. They will show you the correct way to move safely. Once you are confident and independently mobile, you will be encouraged to keep as mobile as possible.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis: Our spine specialists

When it comes to your back, you need to know that you are in safe hands. Our spine specialists at Schoen Clinic London are highly experienced and leaders in the field. Our multidisciplinary team approach will see that you receive an accurate diagnosis and expert treatment to improve your quality of life.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis: Our specialised hospital

Schoen Clinic Orthopaedic and Spinal Hospital London benefits from state-of-the-art diagnostics and surgical equipment, years of experience in the field of medicine and a location in the heart of London that is both idyllic and convenient.

Schoen Clinic Orthopaedic & Spinal Hospital London - The LaingBuisson Hospital of the Year 2019.

66 Wigmore Street
London W1U 2SB
Tel: +44 20 3929 0801

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