Spondylolisthesis is a back condition in which one vertebra slips in relation to the vertebra below it, and it happens most commonly in the lumbar spine.
Not all people who have this condition experience pain, and some do not experience symptoms until some time after the initial “slip” of the vertebra occurred. The misalignment of the vertebrae due to spondylolisthesis can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing a number of symptoms, including general pain and stiffness of the low back and/or hamstrings, altered gait or posture, and numbness, tingling, or shooting pain down the buttocks and legs. In some cases, the nerves affected can cause difficulty in controlling the bladder or bowels. Depending on the grade of the condition, these symptoms can range from mild to severe

There are several types of spondylolisthesis:

  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis – This is the most common form of spondylolisthesis, and it typically occurs in childhood or adolescence (with the increased physical activity most people do at these ages), but it is not typically discovered until adulthood.
  • Dysplastic Spondylolithesis – This is a congenital (from birth) condition that is caused when the lumbosacral juntion does not form properly.
  • Traumatic Spondylolisthesis – As the name suggests, this condition is caused by direct injury or damage to the vertebrae; damage can allow the vertebra to slip forward when spondylolisthesis would not have otherwise occurred.
  • Pathologic Spondylolisthesis – Some diseases that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis, Paget’s disease, tumors, or tuberculosis, can cause spinal damage that allows the vertebrae to shift and slip.
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis – Typically this condition affects older adults and is caused by the gradual wear and tear the spine experiences from daily life.

Of course, the common factor in each of these types of spondylolisthesis is that some weakness, trauma, or activity allows the spine to become vulnerable to slippage.

If you are diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, there are treatment options depending on the grade of your condition.