by Kayla Coad, PT, DPT


Spondylolisthesis is characterized by anterior slippage of a vertebrae. The purpose of this study is to determine if there are specific signs (what can be observed), symptoms (what is felt by the patient, eg pain), and functional disability that are associated with adult spondylolisthesis.


Signs, symptoms, and disability of 111 patients with adult spondylolisthesis before randomized treatment with fusion or physical therapy were compared with those of 39 patients with nonspecific low back pain before lumbar fusion.


Symptoms were similar in patients with spondylolisthesis and chronic LBP, but chronic LBP reported greater functional disability. Patients with chronic LBP were on sick leave more often and reported a higher frequency of bladder and sexual dysfunction. Sixty-two percent of patients reported LBP as well as sciatica, 7% reported sciatica only, and 31% LBP only. Specific signs were not common. A positive straight leg raise test resulted in 12% and a L5 sensory distribution in 13% were the most common.


The clinical presentation and functional disability is similar in patients with adult spondylolisthesis and low back pain of nonspecific origin. Patients with adult spondylolisthesis and sciatica do not typically have a positive straight leg raise test. Specific signs between the two groups were not common.

Clinical Relevance:

The physical therapist at Physical Therapist First will create a unique treatment plan based on research for patients with low back pain and adult spondylolisthesis in order to help them return to previous level of function. Reference: Moller, H., Sundin, A., Hedlund, R. Symptoms, Signs, and Functional Disability in Adult Spondylolisthesis: Spine. Vol 25, Number 6, pages 683-689.