Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition that occurs when a vertebra (one of the bones forming the spinal column) shifts out of place and slips forward onto the vertebra below. It’s important to note that spondylolisthesis is not the same thing as spondylolysis, which occurs when the pars interarticularis (a small piece of bone connecting the spine’s facet joints) becomes weakened or fractures.

Spondylolisthesis Causes

Spondylolisthesis has numerous potential causes. It can result from:

  • The natural aging process, which can cause the spinal discs to become thinner and more likely to shift out of position (degenerative spondylolisthesis)
  • Spondylolysis (isthmic spondylolisthesis)
  • A congenital defect that causes an infant’s spine to be misaligned and more prone to slipping out of place later in life (congenital spondylolisthesis)
  • A related condition, such as osteoporosis (pathological spondylolisthesis)
  • An injury (traumatic spondylolisthesis)
  • Spine surgery (postsurgical spondylolisthesis)

Spondylolisthesis Risk Factors

Certain risk factors can increase someone’s chances of developing the various forms of spondylolisthesis. For instance, individuals over age 50 and women have a greater risk of developing degenerative spondylolisthesis. Genetics can also make someone more prone to developing spondylolysis, which can in turn increase their chances of experiencing isthmic spondylolisthesis.

It must be noted that having one or more risk factors does not mean that someone will definitely develop spondylolisthesis during their lifetime. Conversely, it’s possible for a person to develop spondylolisthesis without having any known risk factors.

Spondylolisthesis Symptoms

Spondylolisthesis doesn’t always cause symptoms—in fact, many people live with this condition for years without being aware that they have it. However, if the slipped vertebra begins exerting pressure on a nearby nerve, it may cause:

  • Pain within the lower back (this may worsen when bending over or radiate to the buttocks and/or thighs)
  • Back stiffness
  • Difficulty standing or walking for extended periods of time
  • Muscle spasms within the hamstrings
  • Numbness, tingling, and/or weakness within the feet

Spondylolisthesis Treatment

Many individuals with spondylolisthesis are able to relieve their symptoms using a combination of nonsurgical treatment methods, potentially including:

  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other medications
  • Undergoing corticosteroid injections
  • Wearing a brace to stabilize the spine
  • Attending physical therapy
  • Periodically resting the spine

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine and relieve any resulting pain. After diagnosing someone with spondylolisthesis, a physician will formulate a customized treatment plan based on the person’s age and overall health, the severity of their condition, and whether conservative treatments have provided any degree of relief.

A Trusted Provider Offering Spondylolisthesis Treatment Near You

If you’re experiencing lower back pain or any of the other symptoms listed above and you’re concerned that you might have spondylolisthesis, you can turn to North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic for treatment. The experienced team at our Durham, NC, office treats a wide range of spine conditions—including spondylolisthesis—and always provides patients with our industry-leading combination of specialized care and personalized service. 

Contact us today to set up an appointment. We’re open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we proudly offer same- and next-day scheduling.