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How is a spondylolisthesis diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose both DS and spondylolytic spondylolisthesis using the same examination tools.

After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will examine your back. This will include looking at your back and pushing on different areas to see if it hurts. Your doctor may have you bend forward, backward, and side- to-side to look for limitations or pain.

Other tests which may help your doctor confirm your diagnosis include:

X-rays. These tests visualize bones and will show whether a lumbar vertebra has slipped forward. X-rays will show aging changes, like loss of disc height or bone spurs. X-rays taken while you lean forward and backward are called flexion-extension images. They can show instability or too much movement in your spine.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This study can create better images of soft tissues, such as muscles, discs, nerves, and the spinal cord. It can show more detail of the slippage and whether any of the nerves are pinched.

Computed tomography (CT). These scans are more detailed than x-rays and can create cross-section images of your spine.