What is the difference between spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolysis describes a crack in the pars interarticularis, a small segment of bone that connects the facet joints in the lumbar spine and helps to protect the nerve roots. Spondylolisthesis is a condition that is degenerative in nature and describes the slippage of one vertebra over another above and below it.

Spondylolysis is a common cause of spondylolisthesis, which often creates back pain in adolescent athletes without correct treatment. Because of this, some individuals may try to use these terms interchangeably. However, it is important to note that they are two different conditions. To learn more about what sets spondylolysis apart from spondylolisthesis, read the following article.

Spondylolysis versus spondylolisthesis

Although spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis both involve the pars interarticularis, spondylolysis only involves one side while spondylolisthesis has bilateral damage. With spondylolysis, the fracture develops on the vertebrae, which consists of 33 bones stacked on top of one another. This fracture occurs in the thinnest area of the vertebrae that connects the upper and lower facet joints. When the pars interarticularis becomes separated, it can lead to vertebral slippage commonly in the lumbar spine, resulting in spondylolisthesis.

Symptoms of spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis

If compression occurs in the nerve root or spinal cord, both spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis can begin to develop symptoms. This may include pain at the site of the fracture with spondylolysis or compression at the nerve roots if vertebral slippage occurs from spondylolisthesis. The symptoms can also radiate down the affected nerve, causing pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.

Treating spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis

Depending on the progression of your condition, you may be able to find relief through a course of conservative treatments. This may include a back brace, hot and cold therapy, chiropractic care, physical therapy, anti-inflammatories and pain medication. However, if several weeks or months of conservative care does not provide you with adequate relief from your spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis, then contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advantages of our surgery.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a variety of minimally invasive procedures that can help ease the pain and discomfort associated with spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. Based on the condition you have developed, our board-certified+ surgeons will either perform a minimally invasive decompression or stabilization procedure to get you back to the activities you love. To learn if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient surgery, reach out to our team today and ask for a free MRI review.*