Introducing The Daily Drop-in: Our daily pick of the best tools and articles to help you care for yourself during lockdown.
Spondylolisthesis means that a bone of the lower part of the spine (a vertebra) has slipped out of position and onto the bone below it.
This is not to be confused with a slipped disc, where one of the spinal discs in between the vertebrae has ruptured.
Spondylolisthesis may vary from mild to severe and there are not always symptoms.
But typically, people with spondylolisthesis experience:
In children, spondylolisthesis is usually due to a birth defect in that area of the spine, or the result of a sudden injury.
In adults, it is most commonly caused by age-related wear of the spine or a degenerative disease such as arthritis.
Other possible causes in adults are:
You should see your doctor if:
Your doctor will physically examine you and may ask you to do a straight leg raise, which is often painful if you have spondylolisthesis.
An X-ray of your spine (taken when you are standing) will show if one of your bones is out of place, and whether you have a fracture.
Treatment varies depending on the severity of your condition. You may get better simply by doing some strengthening and stretching exercises and avoiding contact sports and over-stretching the spine.
You should try non-surgical treatments first, such as:
These measures will only provide temporary relief, but you may find symptoms go away with time anyway.
A back brace is not usually recommended as it doesn't let you use your core spinal muscles, and so weakens your spine.
You should avoid activities while you are still experiencing symptoms.
Uncorrected spondylolisthesis may sometimes result in kyphosis, where the top of the back is excessively curved and appears more rounded than normal.
Severe pain that does not get better may require surgery. This involves fusing the slipped vertebra to the neighbouring vertebrae.
Surgery carries a risk of nerve injury, so you should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of this treatment and think about it carefully before you proceed.
The procedure is usually effective in relieving symptoms of severe spondylolisthesis when the vertebra is pressing on nerves.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.