What Is Spondylolisthesis?

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Causes and Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis causes correlate to the type of spondylolisthesis:

  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis is often due to repeated microfractures that can occur from continual heavy lifting or certain sports.
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis often occurs from chronic degenerative disc diseases such as arthritis, and results in weakness in part of the neural arch at the posterior of the vertebral body.
  • Traumatic Spondylolisthesis, as the name indicates, stems from a traumatic injury to the spine or from a post-surgery complication.
  • Dysplastic Spondylolisthesis originates from abnormal cell growth before birth.
  • Pathologic Spondylolisthesis is caused by a bone disease such as osteoporosis, a tumor or cancer.

Spondylolisthesis can be asymptomatic (without symptoms), but if it does present symptoms they are usually related to the area of the displaced vertebrae:

Lumbar spondylolisthesis is located in the lower lumbar region of the back and affects the lower back and legs:

  • Lower back pain
  • Tingling, numbness or leg pain such as sciatic pain or radiculopathy (pain along the nerve pathway) if the disc impinges on the nerve,
  • Tightness in the back and thighs
  • Muscle spasms in the hamstrings
  • Weakness in the legs and feet
  • Pain may be diminished when sitting

Cervical spondylolisthesis occurs in the neck and affects the neck, upper back and arms:

  • Pain or stiffness in the neck or upper back
  • Discomfort moving head up and down

Cervical spondylolisthesis occurs much less frequently than lumbar spondylolisthesis.

Diagnosis & Non-Surgical Treatments for Spondylolisthesis

As with most medical conditions, a comprehensive review of your medical history along with a physical exam and medical imaging can help your doctor provide an expert spondylolisthesis diagnosis. Medical imaging such as x-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and a CT scan (computed tomography) gives your physician the tools needed for proper analysis of your back or spine condition.

Before surgery is considered, more conservative spondylolisthesis treatments are usually recommended such as:

  • physical therapy,
  • steroid injections,
  • anti-inflammatory medication and analgesics (pain medications), and
  • braces or other back support.

Spondylolisthesis surgery focuses on relieving the pressure from the disc with a disc decompression, often in conjunction with a spinal fusion.

Advanced Surgical Treatments for Spondylolisthesis at NSPC

NSPC Brain & Spine Surgery (NSPC) (NSPC) provides leading-edge spondylolisthesis treatments. Our award-winning physicians and neurosurgeons offer outstanding care with revolutionary surgical techniques for the best results. Treatment centers are conveniently located in Long Island, New York.

Minimally invasive surgery for lumbar spondylolisthesis reduces both your hospital time and your recovery time. Our neurosurgeons use microscopes to make smaller incisions, creating less damage to the surrounding muscles and tissues with limited blood loss, compared to traditional open surgery.

Spondylolisthesis surgery often is a type of decompression surgery to treat the accompanying condition:

  • Herniated discs
  • Restricted foramen
  • Spinal stenosis

At NSPC, we perform lumbar ALIF, PLIF and TLIF for degenerative disc diseases such as lumbar spondylolisthesis that cause back or leg pain:

The much rarer cervical spondylolisthesis can also be treated with surgery if conservative treatments have failed to provide relief:

An Anterior Cervical Discectomy removes the damaged portion of the disc via the front (anterior) of the neck.

Cervical Posterior Foraminotomy removes sections of a damaged disc or bone that is impinging on a nerve.

NSPC has offices in Great Neck, Rockville Centre, Lake Success, Bethpage, Commack, West Islip, Port Jefferson Station, Patchogue and New York City to provide top-notch solutions to spondylolisthesis and other complex spine conditions.

Related NSPC Center

Spine Center

Don’t let mobility issues and neck or back pain stop you — NSPC offers exceptional rehabilitation and pain management for your spine disorder. Our team of expert doctors focuses on sophisticated diagnostic techniques, individualized treatment plans, and quality care to help you get your life back, sooner.


Yusef Imani, M.D.



Daniel Birk



Xavier P. J. Gaudin



Benjamin Cohen

M.D., F.A.A.N.S., F.A.C.S.


Zachariah George



Vladimir Dadashev



Sachin Shah



Stephen Onesti

M.D., F.A.C.S.


Robert Holtzman



Ramin Rak

M.D., F.A.A.N.S.


Artem Vaynman

M.D., F.A.A.N.S. F.A.C.S.


William Sonstein

M.D., F.A.C.S.


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