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Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination. Your physician will ask questions about your symptoms, how your problem is affecting your daily activities and what positions or activities make your symptoms worse or better.

The physician then checks your posture, the amount of movement in your low back and movements that cause pain or other symptoms. Your skin sensation, muscle strength and reflexes also are tested.

Physicians usually will order X-rays of the low back. The X-rays are taken with your spine in various positions. They can be used to see which vertebra is slipping and how far it has slipped.

If more information is needed, your physician may order computed tomography, which provides a detailed X-ray of slices of the body’s tissue.

Your physician also may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. MRI uses magnetic waves rather than X-rays to show the soft tissues of the body. It can provide information about the health of nerves and other soft tissues.

Using a side X-ray, the slip is graded according to its degree of severity. The Meyerding Grading System measures the percentage of vertebral slip forward over the body beneath. The grades are:

  • Grade 1 – 25 percent
  • Grade 2 – 25 percent to 49 percent
  • Grade 3 – 50 percent to 74 percent
  • Grade 4 – 75 percent to 99 percent
  • Grade 5 – 100 percent

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