What is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra in the spine slip out of the proper position onto the bone underneath it. CausesIn children, spondylolisthesis usually takes place between the fifth bone in the lower back (lumbar vertebra) and the first bone in the sacrum (pelvis) area. It is frequently a result of a birth defect in that area of the spine or sudden injury (acute trauma).

In adults, the most common trigger is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones (such as arthritis). Bone disease and fractures can also produce spondylolisthesis. Certain sport activities, like gymnastics, weight lifting, and football, put a large amount of strain on the bones in the lower back. They also require that the athlete constantly overstretch (hyperextend) the spine. This can lead to a stress fracture on one or both sides of the vertebra. A stress fracture can trigger a spinal bone to become vulnerable and move out of place.


Spondylolisthesis may range from mild to severe. An individual with spondylolisthesis may have no symptoms. The condition can produce increased lordosis (also called swayback), but in later stages may result in kyphosis (roundback) as the upper spine slips off the lower spine.

    Symptoms may include things like:

  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle tightness (tight hamstring muscle)
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the thighs and buttocks
  • Stiffness
  • Soreness in the area of the slipped disc
  • Weakness in the legs

Exams and Tests

Your doctor or nurse will examine you and feel your spine. You will be asked to raise your leg straight out in front of you. This may feel uncomfortable or painful. X-ray of the spine can indicate if a bone in the spine is out of position or broken.


Treatment procedures depend on how severe the slippage is. Many patients get better with exercises to stretch and develop lower back muscles. If the slippage is not serious, you can play most sports if there is no pain. Much of the time, you can restart activities slowly. You may be asked to avoid contact sports or to adjust activities to protect your back from being overextended.

You will have follow-up x-rays to make sure the issue is not getting worse.

    Your healthcare provider may additionally recommend:

  • Back brace to limit spine motion
  • Pain medicine
  • Physical therapy
    Surgical treatment may be needed to fuse the slipped vertebrae if you have:

  • Severe pain that does is not better with treatment
  • A severe slip of a spine bone
  • Fatigue of muscles in one or both of your legs

There is a potential of nerve trauma with these types of procedures. However, the results can be very successful.