Anterolisthesis is an abnormal alignment of bones in the spine and usually affects the lower back.

It occurs when an upper vertebra slips in front of the one below. Pain is often the first symptom of anterolisthesis.

Misaligned vertebrae can pinch the nerves, and this can have painful and debilitating consequences. Other parts of the body, such as the arms or the legs, can also be affected by anterolisthesis.

The amount of slippage is graded on a scale from mild to severe. Treatment can range from bed rest to surgery. Anterolisthesis is often known as spondylolisthesis.


Anterolisthesis is often due to sudden blunt force or fractures. These can be the result of trauma typically experienced in an auto accident or a fall. Anterolisthesis can also develop over time through strenuous physical exercise, such as bodybuilding.

Aging is another common cause of anterolisthesis. This occurs naturally over time as the cartilage between the vertebrae weakens and thins.

Anterolisthesis can also be linked to underlying conditions such as weak bones, arthritis, or tumors. A tumor can force the vertebra to move from its natural position.

Occasionally, anterolisthesis is linked to a genetic spinal growth defect in children.


The symptoms of anterolisthesis will depend on the amount of slippage and the part of the spine where the slippage occurred.

Anterolisthesis can cause constant and severe localized pain, or it can develop and worsen over time. Pain may be persistent and often affects the lower back pain or the legs.

Mobility issues due to pain can lead to inactivity and weight gain. It can also result in loss of bone density and muscle strength. Flexibility in other areas of the body may also be affected.

Other Symptoms of Anterolisthesis include :

  • muscle spasms
  • pulsating or tingling sensations
  • inability to feel hot or cold sensations
  • pain and poor posture
  • weakness

In severe cases, the following symptoms may occur:

  • difficulty walking and limited body movement
  • loss of bladder or bowel function

A doctor will diagnose anterolisthesis using a physical examination and an evaluation of the persons symptoms. The examination will usually include a reflex check.

X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans may be used to confirm a suspected anterolisthesis diagnosis. These imaging techniques are used to examine bone defects, and to assess injuries and nerve damage.


The next step after diagnosis is to establish the extent of the damage. The following grading scale is used to determine the severity of the condition and what treatment is required.

  • Grade 1: less than 25 percent slippage
  • Grade 2: 26 to 50 percent slippage
  • Grade 3: 51 to 75 percent slippage
  • Grade 4: 76 percent or more slippage

There are rare cases of 100 percent slippage when the upper vertebra completely slips off the one below.

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