Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that causes lower back pain. It occurs when one of your vertebrae, the bones of your spine, slips out of place onto the vertebra below it. Most of the time, nonsurgical treatment can relieve your symptoms.
Both spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis cause low back pain. They are related but not the same.
This spine defect is a stress fractures or crack in spine bones. It’s common in young athletes.
This condition is when a vertebra slips out of place, resting on the bone below it. Spondylolysis may cause spondylolisthesis when a stress fracture causes the slipping. Or the vertebra may slip out of place due to a degenerative condition. The disks between vertebrae and the facet joints (the two back parts of each vertebrae that link the vertebrae together) can wear down. Bone of the facet joints actually grows back and overgrows, causing an uneven and unstable surface area, which makes the vertebrae less able to stay in place. No matter what the cause, when the vertebra slips out of place, it puts pressure on the bone below it. Most cases of spondylolisthesis do not cause symptoms. If you feel leg pain, it can also be caused by compression or a "pinching" of the nerve roots that exit the spinal canal (the tunnel created by the interlocking vertebrae of the spine). The compression or pinching is due to the vertebrae slipping out of position and narrowing the needed space for the nerves.
Types of spondylolisthesis include:
- Congenital spondylolisthesis occurs when a baby’s spine doesn’t form the way it should before birth. The misaligned vertebrae put the person at risk for slippage later in life.
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis happens as a result of spondylolysis. The crack or fracture weakens the bone.
- Degenerative spondylolisthesis, the most common type, happens due to aging. Over time, the disks that cushion the vertebrae lose water. As the disks thin, they are more likely to slip out of place.
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