What Causes Spondylolisthesis?

What Causes Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a degenerative spine condition that indicates spinal misalignment. Specifically, spondylolisthesis describes the presence of one vertebra in the spine having slipped over the vertebra below it. Somewhat surprisingly, this condition is not necessarily symptomatic, as there are varying degrees of spondylolisthesis, and if only minor slippage has occurred, patients might not recognize they have the condition. However, should the vertebral misalignment result in the compression of the spinal cord or one of the nerve roots, a number of painful symptoms may be experienced.

Causes and symptoms

In a healthy spine, the spinal column is comprised of a series of bones, known as vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. Individual vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs and stabilized by vertebral joints known as facet joints. Sometimes, as a result of a traumatic injury or a degenerative spine condition, one vertebra can slip on top of another. In some cases the vertebral slip might be completely asymptomatic, and an individual won’t know if the condition is present without a medical scan. In other instances, spondylolisthesis can result in or contribute to nerve compression, which may cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • Local pain
  • Pain that radiates along the compressed nerve
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Stiffness or soreness
  • A burning feeling in the nerves
  • Numbness or tingling


Treatment options for spondylolisthesis vary depending on the severity of the spinal misalignment. In some instances, for example, patients will respond to stretching exercises or low-impact exercises that strengthen the lower back and take some pressure off the spine. In the event that a patient does not experience sufficient pain relief from conservative, non-surgical treatment, spinal surgery may be recommended to recreate space in the canals for the spinal cord and nerve roots. If you are considering spinal surgery to treat your spondylolisthesis, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive procedures that are more effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery.