All You Need to Know About Spondylolisthesis


What is Spondylolithesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that primarily impacts the lower back. Imagine the vertebrae in your back. You have 33 stacked vertebrae that are similar to building blocks. They form the foundation of your spine. Now when one of these “building blocks” slips out of place, it may slip forward over top of other block directly below it. Most importantly, when a vertebra slips out of place, it may put direct pressure against a nerve root. This is what is known as spondylolisthesis.

The Cause of Spondylolisthesis

There are several common causes of spondylolisthesis, some of which are beyond your control. Spondylolisthesis may occur during birth. Teens may also experience spondylolisthesis during growth spurts. Spondylolisthesis can also occur due to trauma such as a car accident or fall. It can also be caused by direct physical stress. For example, if you are lifting weights improperly such as during a squat, the pressure on your spine may cause a vertebra to slip.

How Do You Know if You Have Spondylolisthesis?

Many of those with spondylolisthesis don’t know they have it because they experience no symptoms. However, when symptoms are present, the most obvious one is lower back pain. Many people mistake this pain for muscle strain caused by exercise. Other symptoms of spondylolisthesis include the following: 

  • Muscle spasms or tight hamstrings 
  • Pain in the legs 
  • Pain in the  buttocks
  • Difficulty controlling  bladder and bowel function
  • Swayback 
  • Lower back tenderness
  • Protruding abdomen
  • Walking in a way that resembles waddling 

How Do You Treat Spondylolisthesis?

There are several methods of treatment depending on how severe the Spondylolisthesis has become: 

Rest & Recovery 

  • If active in sports, a period of rest is recommended along with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Steroid injections may also be recommended if the pain continues. 

Direct Support 

  • A doctor may suggest wearing a back-support brace in order to stabilize the lower back as this may reduce the pain. 

Physical Therapy

  • In order to naturally treat the slippage of the vertebra, it will be imperative to strength the surrounding muscles. Rehabilitation exercises help to strengthen muscles while minimizing movement of the spine. 


  • This may become necessary if improvement is not evident after aggressive physical therapy. The goal of the surgery is to ensure stabilization of the spine and to alleviate pressure against the nerve. Less invasive surgical options like spinal cord nerve stimulation have been used in cases where other treatment options were not effective. Ask your doctor about which treatments may be right for you.
Did you find this helpful?
You may also like