Spondylolisthesis — causes and classifications

Researching the different spondylolisthesis types? Learn the differences from Laser Spine Institute's experts.

Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition that describes the misalignment of vertebrae in the spine. There are several causes of spondylolisthesis, including other spine conditions such as spinal stenosis. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms of spondylolisthesis usually include chronic back or neck pain, radiating pain in the extremities and difficulty walking for extended periods of time.

If you suspect you have spondylolisthesis, it is important for you to consult your physician to discuss your symptoms and determine an accurate diagnosis. You may be required to get an MRI or CT scan to properly evaluate your spine condition. If you are diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, your physician can help you find a treatment plan to alleviate your pain and symptoms.

Causes of spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a spine condition that occurs when the vertebrae in the spine move out of alignment. There are several causes for this condition, but the most common causes include:

Other causes of spondylolisthesis include birth defects and spine infections. These causes can be determined through MRI or CT scan review to properly diagnose the condition and form a plan of action to treat the root cause of spondylolisthesis.

Classifications of spondylolisthesis

Much like the causes of spondylolisthesis, there are several classifications of the condition. Before you can accurately treat your spondylolisthesis, you must determine the type of condition you have. The classifications of spondylolisthesis include:

  • Congenital spondylolisthesis/Dysplastic spondylolisthesis — This classification of spondylolisthesis is due to a birth defect and is present in the womb. This particular classification is very rare compared to the other types of spondylolisthesis.
  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis — This is the most common classification of the condition. Isthmic spondylolisthesis is caused by a stress fracture that moves the vertebrae of the spine out of alignment. Studies have shown that between 5 percent to 10 percent of Americans have isthmic spondylolisthesis.
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis — This classification is caused by the generation of the discs or joints between the vertebrae due to arthritis or osteoporosis in the spine. When the discs deteriorate, the vertebrae slip out of place, causing spondylolisthesis.
  • Traumatic — Traumatic spondylolisthesis is usually the result of an injury or severe fracture. This is the rarest classification of spondylolisthesis.
  • Pathologic spondylolisthesis — This condition of spondylolisthesis occurs as a result of a bone disease or infection.
    The two most common classifications of spondylolisthesis are isthmic (caused by overstraining or stress fracture) and degenerative (caused by arthritis and general aging).

Treatment for spondylolisthesis

There are several treatment options available for patients with spondylolisthesis. We suggest that every patient begin with conservative treatment options. However, if you do not find relief from conservative therapies, there are surgical treatments to help alleviate your pain.

Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive stabilization surgery to treat spondylolisthesis. Consult your physician to determine if a surgical solution is right for you.