What is Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a painful condition of the vertebral column (spine), wherein one bone (vertebra) slides forward over the one below it, especially in the Lumbosacral junction or lower back. This condition causes numbness or back pain in the patients, which may even spread down the legs. Severe conditions may even lead to squeezing of the spinal cord or nerve roots. In rare cases, there can be loss of control over bowel and bladder functions. Physicians who are members of the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center referral line treat a multitude of spinal conditions including spondylolisthesis. This blog post discusses various types spondylolisthesis and their treatment.




Dysplastic Spondylolisthesis

This condition is the result of hypoplasia of the upper sacrum or arch. Simply put, it’s a defect in the formation of the part of the vertebra, allowing the bone to slip forward. This is a congenital condition, wherein the patient is born with such a defect.

Isthmic Spondylolisthesis

It is a defect of pars interarticularis in the vertebra. It’s caused by repetitive trauma and is common in athletes who involve in physical activities requiring hyperextension motions, for example, gymnasts, and football linemen.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

The common symptoms of degenerative spondylolisthesis lower back pain, leg pain, or even sciatic pain, where patients have ache in one or both legs. This condition leads to changes in the vertebrae joints due to arthritic degeneration of the cartilage. This condition is usually prevalent in older patients.

Traumatic Spondylolisthesis

It is the result of a direct injury of axis due to the fractures of the odontoid, and happens when the front portion of the vertebra to slips from its position. The affected areas are lamina, facet or pedicle joints. This condition is also known as “Hangman’s Fracture.”

Pathologic Spondylolisthesis

It is the result of a defect in the bone such as that caused from a tumor.

Read More : A Brief Guide to Degenerative Spondylolisthesis of the Lumbar Spine



Conservative Treatment
When patients suffer from this condition, they need to take a break from strenuous physical activities until the pain subsides. During this period, the orthopaedist may advise a dosage of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen (trade name Motrin®), Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and naproxen (trade name Aleve® or Naprosyn®) to alleviate the inflammation and pain. Aspirin is not recommended here for patients younger than 20 years as it may cause Reye Syndrome in them. Patients are also prescribed epidural steroid injections that are directly injected into the area surrounding the spine, to ease the pain.
Physical Therapy
Stabilization exercises prove to be beneficial in the mainstay of treatment. These exercises give strengthens the back and abdomen muscles and minimize vertebrae movement of the spine. Usually, clinical improvement starts showing in 8 to 12 weeks of aggressive daily stabilization exercise treatment. During the therapy wearing a brace does help stabilize the lower back and alleviate pain.


Doctors suggest following surgical procedures in the cases where the vertebra continues to slip out, or if the pain persists despite going through conservative treatment. Surgery is beneficial in relieving the pain due to nerve irritation, stabilizing the spine, and improving the patient’s condition. During this procedure, the defective bone or tissue is removed to take the pressure off the spinal cord or nerves, or the bones are fused in position.
Decompressive Laminectomy
In this surgical procedure, a part of the bone that presses against the nerves is removed. Although the procedure can reduce pain, the removal of the bone piece often renders the spine unstable.
Spinal fusion
This surgery is done to provide stability to the spine. During this procedure, a piece of bone is fused back to the spine. In course of the healing process, the bone fuses with the spine to form a solid bone, thereby, stabilizing the bone.

The Bottom Line

The treatments for both lumbosacral and degenerative spondylolisthesis may involve both physical therapeutic treatment and surgical correction. In most cases, non-surgical spondylolisthesis treatment is feasible, however, if the vertebra continues to slip out from its position, surgical treatment might be necessary. Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center has physician members in its referral program who treat spondylolisthesis as well as many other spinal disorders, in Texas. To book an appointment with one of our physician members, simply call +1-888-608-4762 or fill out our online booking form.

Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center.