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Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the vertebra (bones) of the spine slips out of alignment with the other vertebrae in the spine.

Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition where one vertebra slips forward over the one below it. While this may sound alarming, it’s a relatively common condition. At Comprehensive Spine Care, P.A., our team of skilled doctors dedicates itself to diagnosing, treating, and managing this condition to ensure our patients can lead pain-free lives.

Identifying Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of spondylolisthesis is essential as early intervention can often lead to better outcomes. Some symptoms include:

  • Persistent lower back pain
  • Stiffness or tightness in the back
  • Pain that extends to the buttocks or legs
  • Numbness or tingling sensations radiating down the legs
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Moderate to Severe pain in the lower back, hamstrings, and buttocks.
  • Lumbar Radiculopathy or Sciatica. The symptoms from a nerve compressed because of lumbar stenosis or a pinched nerve in the back can include:
    • Pain
    • Burning sensation in the area
    • Numbness or tingling sensation from the lower back into the buttocks, thighs, legs and feet.
    • Neurogenic Claudication – cramping sensations in the buttocks or legs, particularly when walking
    • Weakness in the muscles of the legs and ankles

Isthmic Spondylolisthesis (Lytic Spondylolisthesis)

This type of spondylolisthesis is caused by a fracture of the “pars interarticularis” which is the bony bridge that connects the joints of the spine, called facet joints. It often occurs in patients that have participated in sports that involve repetitive stress to the lumbar vertebrae. The defect in the bone caused by the fracture is termed a spondylolysis. If separation or displacement of this fracture occurs, the anterior (front) portion of the vertebra will disconnect from the facet joints. The resulting slippage of the vertebrae is known as a spondylolisthesis.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

This type of spondylolisthesis is most often seen in older patients. Degenerative Spondylolisthesis is caused by arthritis of the facet joints in the back of the spine along with a loss of integrity of the intervertebral disc. This may lead to instability of the spine with slippage of the vertebra and further wear and tear on the intervertebral disc.

Spondylolisthesis stages

The Necessity for Addressing Spondylolisthesis

  • Pain Management: Without appropriate intervention, the pain associated with spondylolisthesis can become chronic, limiting an individual’s daily activities and reducing their quality of life.
  • Prevention of Further Complications: Untreated spondylolisthesis can lead to more severe spinal issues, including nerve compression, resulting in long-term damage and complications.
  • Restoring Functionality: Treatment can restore mobility and functionality, allowing patients to resume normal activities without pain or restrictions.


The majority of individuals with a spondylolisthesis do not require surgery. Common non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural Injections
  • When pain symptoms are severe, if there is significant muscle weakness, or if your overall condition deteriorates surgery may be necessary. The surgeons at Comprehensive Spine Care will develop a treatment plan based on your symptoms, physical exam, and MRI results.

Surgery for Lumbar Spondylolisthesis typically would consist of a Lumbar decompression (Laminectomy, Laminotomy). Stabilization of the spine may also be necessary (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, Posterior Lumbar Fusion, Lateral Lumbar Fusion.)

Delving Into the Treatment Process

  • Detailed Diagnosis: Our doctors begin with a thorough examination, often supplemented by imaging tests, to determine the grade and severity of the spondylolisthesis.
  • Conservative Treatment Options: Depending on the severity, initial treatments might include pain management through medications, physical therapy, and bracing to provide support.
  • Surgical Interventions: For more advanced cases or when conservative treatments don’t provide relief, surgery might be recommended to realign the vertebrae and stabilize the spine.

Emphasizing Prevention

  • Regular Check-ups: Periodic spinal check-ups can detect early signs of any vertebral shifts.
  • Engage in Physical Therapy: Strengthening core muscles can offer better support to the spine, potentially preventing or slowing the progression of spondylolisthesis.
  • Practice Safe Mechanics: Always ensure proper techniques when lifting objects or engaging in strenuous activities to avoid undue stress on the spine.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can exert additional pressure on the spine, so it’s beneficial to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

Looking Ahead: Post-Treatment Future

After treatment for spondylolisthesis, most patients experience a significant decrease in pain and an improvement in mobility. By adhering to post-treatment recommendations, including physical therapy and lifestyle modifications, patients can anticipate a return to their regular activities with minimal restrictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis can be caused by various factors, from congenital issues (present at birth) to stress fractures from repetitive trauma. Age-related wear and tear or direct injuries to the spine can also lead to this condition.

How do I know if I have spondylolisthesis?

Symptoms can vary, but common signs include lower back pain, pain extending to the buttocks or legs, numbness or tingling in the legs, and difficulty in standing or walking. A proper diagnosis by a doctor, usually involving imaging tests, is necessary to confirm the condition.

Are there non-surgical treatments available for spondylolisthesis?

Many patients benefit from conservative treatments such as pain medications, physical therapy, and bracing. The best treatment approach depends on the severity of the condition and individual patient needs.

Reach Out for Expert Care

If you suspect you may have spondylolisthesis or are experiencing back pain, don’t hesitate. Comprehensive Spine Care, P.A., with locations in Westwood, Clifton, Bridgewater, and Brunswick, NJ, is here to provide expert guidance and care. Call us today at (201) 634-1811. Your spine health is our priority!

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