Consumer Privacy Notice

Visit the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Privacy Policy and St. Elizabeth Physician's Privacy Policy for details regarding the categories of personal information collected through St. Elizabeth website properties and the organizational purpose(s) for which the information will be used to improve your digital consumer/patient experience. We do not sell or rent personally-identifying information collected.

Spondylolisthesis in the Spine

Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips out of place in the spinal column. It may slip forward, back or press down on the vertebra below, causing pain and pressure in the neck or back.

This condition most commonly affects the low back or neck

What is spondylolisthesis?

When one of your vertebrae slips out of place, it can cause the lower back to gradually bend or the spinal canal to narrow. Some individuals feel pain as soon as the disc slips out of place, but others may not experience any symptoms. 

There are many types and causes of spondylolisthesis, including:

  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis: As we age, our discs lose water – making it harder for them to hold vertebra in place. This is the most common type of spondylolisthesis.
  • Congenital spondylolisthesis: An abnormal arrangement of vertebrae, present since birth, creates a higher risk of slipping out of place.
  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis: Small stress fractures in the vertebrae weaken the bone and allow it to slip out of place.
  • Traumatic spondylolisthesis: A sudden, serious injury causes a spinal fracture or vertebral to slip out of place. 
  • Pathological spondylolisthesis: Certain diseases (such as osteoporosis, tumors or infection) can weaken the spine and increase the risk of slippage.
  • Post-surgical spondylolisthesis: Rarely, spinal surgery can cause slippage.

What are symptoms of spondylolisthesis?

The most common of spondylolisthesis is low back pain. Pain can also radiate to one or both legs or the hips. The condition may even cause pain and numbness in the legs.

Serious symptoms also include loss of bladder or bowel control. If you are experiencing a difficult time controlling body functions, contact your doctor immediately. 

How is spondylolisthesis treated?

Spondylolisthesis that affects the neck calls for experienced care to help address the cause of the condition and help you manage pain and symptoms. The team at the St. Elizabeth Spine Center, and our partner providers, are committed to providing cutting-edge care that helps you feel whole again.

Treatment options may include pain management, physical and occupational therapy, steroid injections and surgery. 

Pain management

Effective pain management can help you relieve symptoms and enjoy your favorite activities once again. Your doctor will discuss which pain management options are right for you, including over-the-counter or prescription pain relief. 

Physical Therapy 

Physical therapy can help you strengthen your neck and share exercises that help increase your range of motion. A therapist can also help you adapt every day activities – from sleeping, driving and washing dishes – to minimize pain and reduce your symptoms. 


Steroid injections, directly in the affected area, can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. Corticosteroids offer temporary relief. Your doctor will discuss if this approach is right for you. 

Do I need surgery for cervical spondylolisthesis?

Physical therapy and a conservative treatment approach can often address the cause and symptoms of lumbar spondylolisthesis. If your symptoms and pain do not improve, your doctor may recommend surgery, such as: 

  • Microdiscectomy
  • Hemilaminectomy
  • Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion
  • Laminectomy 
  • Spinal fusion

How is lumbar spondylolisthesis diagnosed?

Spondylolisthesis in the low back can be diagnosed with a complete examination and imaging tests, such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan. These imaging tests allow your doctor to see if any vertebrae have slipped out of place. Some insurance plans have pre-requisites that need to be met before imaging can be ordered. Be sure to discuss your options with your provider.