Pain Management: Spondylolisthesis

What Is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a slipping of vertebra that occurs, in most cases, at the base of the spine.

Spondylolisthesis can be caused by spondylolysis.

Spondylolysis is a fracture or crack in the thin part of a vertebra amd can result in vertebrae slipping backward, forward, or over a bone below. Children or teens are the most likely to have spondylolysis because their bodies are still developing. A crack or fracture can also happen because of repeated injuries while playing sports.

Causes of Spondylolisthesis

There are many causes for spondylolisthesis. A vertebra might be defective from the time a person is born, or a vertebra may be broken by trauma or a stress fracture. In addition, vertebrae can be broken down by infection or disease. Commonly, this disorder occurs in children and adolescents who are active in athletics, such as gymnastics.

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis

Symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle tightness and stiffness
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Pain radiating down the legs (due to pressure on nerve roots)

Spondylolisthesis Treatments

Spondylolisthesis is treated with the strengthening of supportive abdominal and back muscles through physical therapy. For patients who continue to have severe pain and disability after physical therapy, there is the option of surgical fusion (arthrodesis) of the vertebra to the bone below.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on July 26, 2019


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis."

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