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Posted in: Back pain, and Spondylolisthesis.

Anyone here have high grade spondylolthesis grade 3 or higher?

Started by Jacquelyn-Leigh on 07/16/2011 7:47pm

How did you find out you had it? Also was there any trauma that cause it? Also can you still do normal everyday activities? Finally any advice for a grade 3-4 female in her mid 20's

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5 Responses



I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am a 55 yr old male with a grade 3 spondy L5/S1. I have been told that my spondy came from a congenital spina bifida birth defect where my L5 never closed and is like a "C" rather than an "O". That instability was the root cause of the spondy which developed over the course of my life.

I have led a normal life with a lot of athletic activity. I was an intercollegiate tennis player, and have run a dozen marathons and countless other races like triathlons, duathlons and bike races. Not sure what caused the sciatica to flare 2 yrs ago, perhaps a fall I took on the ice which was particualrly nasty, I don't know. But 2 yrs ago the sciatica got bad enough to sideline me from all activities. It was then that I first learned I had the spondy. After seeing the wicked-looking MRI, the surgeon wanted to do a PLIF fusion. Thankfully, I got a second opinion and went about a determined course of PT exercises to strengthen my back. I also received two ESI nerve blocks about six months apart, which calmed the L5 nerve down, buying me time while I worked on strengthening my back. Combined with cycling, regular massages and a non narcotic pain releiver called Tarmadol, I am mainly pain free and the only things I can't do anymore is lift heavy objects. But I always have to be careful.

Anyway, I am living proof that you can live a fairly normal life with a high-grade spondy if you understand the disorder and are dedicated to exercises to keep your back muscles and core super-strong.

Don't ever give up, try to manage the pain, get your back stronger and delay surgery if you can .

Rich G


I'm 21 years old and my spondyloptosis condition is past grade 5. My spine has slipped down about 2 inches and my condition is genetic, there was no major trauma that caused it. I first started having back pain when I was about 9 years old. The doctor I had told me that nothing was wrong with me, even after doing 3 x-rays. When I was about 12 years old the pain I had was so unbearable that I went to a chiropractor that was able to relieve my pain. I'm able to live a sad active life. I was never allowed to play sports in school and go on roller coasters or even jump on the trampoline. But I do go on hikes (though no more than an hour, that's my limit then my back can't support my upper body anymore), and I play volleyball with my family every now and again. I've been seeing a doctor of late who has told me that I shouldn't do surgery because I'm able to live my life mostly pain-free. He would only suggest this drastic move if my condition ever prevents me from moving around freely. So the only advice I can give is to go see an orthopedic doctor and see what he/she says from there.


Hope it all works out for you and I'll keep you in my prayers. :)


Hi Jacquelyn,

I am so sorry that you are dealing with this at such a young age . I was first diagnosed in my early thirties, after having problems for several years. I have a grade four, and have had three fusion surgeries. For some reason, regular x-rays were all normal. The best advice I can give, would be to have consultations with spine specialists. By that I mean a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon. The technology is improving every day. My surgeries were more than 10 years ago. A lot of things have changed.

I hope and pray that you find the answers you need to make the best decision. A word of caution, message boards are a great tool but not all of the information is helpful.Just keep in mind that people in pain are often frustrated.

As far as activities, I wear a brace every day, it's not comfortable but it helps. My outcome was not perfect, but I am able to work every day and that's a real blessing. I'll check back to see if you have more questions and see how you're doing.

Best wishes, Laura


I was rear-ended in a car accident 2004 & due to my high pain tolerance was not aware I had broken a vertebra. 6 mos later I experienced horrible leg pain so went to doc & x-rays showed a pars defect & spondylolithesis. What began as sciatica & spondy level 2.5 is now - 2013 - spondy level 3, scoliosis (spine compressing heart & lungs & intestines),facet nerve syndrome (I think that is the verbiage) . I have 6 bulged discs; one totally disintegrated. I also suffer from the Sagittal Imbalance thing & fall down a lot. My legs become numb when it gets cold and/or snows & I have difficulty walking at all. I also have developed the Caudal Equina (sp) thing. My neurosurgeon wants to break every bone in my back & use rods & pins to fuse my ENTIRE spine. I have had 2 MRIs, CAT & PET scans, an EMG, hundreds of x-rays & my back is so screwed up that to know the extent of the damage requires exploratory surgery which wouls be part of the 1st surgery. That surgery requires 10 days in intensive care & 6 weeks in a body cast in addition to home care. Well kudos to the insurance companies cuz they are saving a bundle on individuals like me who have pre-existing conditions that might cost them a fraction of the billions of $'s they rake in day after day . . . I'm not insurable outside of COBRA insurance & it ends this month cuz the SSA refuses my disability & the COBRA is good only 18 months without official disability status from the SSA. EVEN IF I COULD AFFORD 15% OF THE surgical cost (Oh ha ha, as if. NOT.) I'll be without insurance end of this month (I am not insurable cuz of multiple back conditions, but I am NOT disabled. GO FIGURE.) . If I require medical care I have to go to the county hospital beginning November 1st. That in itself is not a big deal, but my neurosurgeon, primary care doc, bone doc, pain specialist, chiropractor are not a part of the county system. Like 10 years down the road I want new doctors???? Oh well, I was told late spring without the 1st surgery I had less than a year to live because of the horrific damage going on. I am 2 inches shorter & have lost 50 pounds. The docs say the pain & the degeneration has weakened my immune system. So - I don't know - surgery requiring intensive care when I have a compromised immune system? The cost of multiple surgeries? 15% of God knows WHAT! NO WAY - I do not even have an income - haven't had for 18 months. & the SSA? Social SECURITY Administration? SECURE?? I am everything BUT secure, you can take that to the bank . . . 45 years of paying taxes & I can not collect when I have 3, 4 "pre-qualifying conditions?

THE FOLLOWING IS A RANT - IGNORE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR MY SOB STORY. Just cuz I am in pain right now & SICK of the way I have been treated since becoming disabled (& am sure this group will UNDERSTAND my frustration), I will add this: The auto accident that STOLE my life? The person who hit me was going 65mph in a 35mph zone & STATED to the police that she was talking on her cell phone & looking at garage sale signs & did not try to stop cuz she didn't see me . . . I was stopped, left turn signal on waiting to turn. I was hit so hard my seat broke free & I went forward , then backward - head thru back window of my truck. Did she get a ticket? NO. After I told the cop I didn't know what had happened (cuz I didn't) aside from my head went thru the window , did he call an ambulance? NO. Welcome to my American NITEMARE. One more rant: I've had ADD/ADHD 60 years & for the FIRST time ever I need medication to control it because my brain continues to race (as it always has) but my body can no longer keep up. My mind continues to race, but the physical disability does not allow me to be in sync with my mind & it is very depressing. People used to call me "Supergirl" cuz I was so active, so independent . . . & my strength & independence made me who I was, but now? I do everything I used to do, I just do it differently now & it takes 10 times as long to accomplish what I set out to do. Close friends & family see me as the person I have always been, but this heartless society - not all persons - but as a group - a bad joke. I have even been taken to the cop shop & subjected to redundant this & that cause I "walk funny"; therefore I must be high or drunk. Where do some of these people get off? Like HELLO? A person with 2/3 of their spine trashed walks a bit funny - IF they walk at all! The docs shake their heads & wonder HOW I still walk. I just tell them I am determined - that the more I get stomped on the harder I fight back. My primary doc is great - she says I have a fire burning inside & to keep it lit & I'll survive. ~sigh~ Get this: one of the reasons the SSA continues to refuse me disability: I waited 9 years to file. Well excuse me! I FOUGHT disability for 9 years cuz I preferred to live with never-ending pain rather than to be treated as I am now!! They also say I'm faking cuz I do not take pain meds. Well, guess what? The pain is so deep - much of it of it nerve pain - I'd have to be zoned out on a very STRONG opiate & I do not consider that living & the parathesis (sp) not pain at all, but rather loss of feeling in legs/feet. I'm damned if I do & damned if I don't . . . So much for my inalienable right to life. . . I've been stripped of my humanity so I guess I no longer have my "human rights." It's sad to think this country has become an environment where the perfectly healthy, the wealthy, & the employed are entitled to health insurance; can afford co-insurance & deductibles. The upper class can afford to fix what is not "perfect" because apparently health insurance, medical care is a PRIVILEDGE. God forbid you are a "condition" or become injured in a way that makes you UNINSURABLE. Like I asked for the Pars birth defect? ??? The word 'handicapped' has its origins in "Hand to Cap" as in BEG for a handout & I don't like that word. Nor do I like the word DISabled. I am challenged & there is nothing I can NOT do, aside from walk upright & afford medical care & force others to treat me as an equal. Good luck to you. I think my situation is extreme (the Midwest is VERY upper class-lower class model of rights & privileges), so chances are your situation will work out OK.