Spine Association for Education


Condition Overview

Spondylolisthesis is a Greek term, and it essentially means “slippery vertebra.” While the name is long and foreign, the condition it describes is a relatively common one. Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it. This condition occurs most often in the lower region of the back. It can be caused by many things, which include: a weak, degenerative joint; a stress fracture created by a demanding activity or sport; a fractured vertebra caused by an accident or trauma; a disease such as arthritis; and even congenital birth defects.

Common Symptoms

The slippage that occurs in Spondylolisthesis can often irritate or pinch surrounding spinal nerve roots and produce symptoms such as tenderness, stiffness, pain, or numbness in the lower back or buttocks and weakness in one or both legs. Frequently, symptoms range from non-existent to mild, with an intermittent shock of shooting pain down the back of the leg.

Methods of Diagnosis

Typically, a medical exam and X-rays are used to diagnose the condition. In more difficult cases, other imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans may be used to pinpoint the problem area(s) and guide treatment.

Methods of Treatment

Because the scope of both the problem and symptoms can vary so widely, treatment can range from physical therapy and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to a rigid back brace and, occasionally, even surgery. For those considering surgery, several minimally invasive surgical procedures are available—including an advanced lumbar spinal fusion procedure called OLLIF (oblique lateral lumbar interbody fusion) Outpatient Back Surgery.


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