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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:



(Slipped Vertebra)


Spondylolisthesis is when a vertebra (spinal bone) slips forward onto the vertebra below it. It happens slowly over time.


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Causes may be:

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of spondylolisthesis are:


Most people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Pain that may spread down to the legs
  • Muscle spasms in the back of the thighs
  • Problems standing and walking
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Pictures will be taken of the spine. This can be done with:


People who do not have symptoms may not need treatment. In others, the goal is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as limiting activities to allow the area to rest
  • Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion
  • A back brace to stabilize the spine
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Pain relievers
    • Muscle relaxants

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery. It may also be done if the bone has severely slipped. Spinal fusion may be done to fuse two vertebrae together to stabilize the spine.


There are no known guidelines to prevent spondylolisthesis.





  • Abdu WA, Sacks OA, et al. Long-term results of surgery compared with non operative treatment for lumbar degenerative spondylolisthesis in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT). Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2018;43(23):1619-1630.
  • Gould HP, Winkelman RD, et al. Epidemiology, treatment, and performance-based outcomes in American professional baseball players with symptomatic spondylolysis and isthmic spondylolisthesis. Amer J Sports Med. 2020;48(11):2765-2773.
  • Kukreja M, Hecht AC, et al. Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis in the Adolescent Athlete. Sem Spine Surg.Volume 32, Issue 3, 2020,100804, ISSN 1040-7383, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semss.2020.100804.
  • Nava-Bringas TI, Romero-Fierro LO, et al. Stabilization Exercises Versus Flexion Exercises in Degenerative Spondylolisthesis: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Phys Ther 2021;101:(8) https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzab108.
  • Randall RM, Silverstein M, et al. Review of pediatric spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. Sports Med Arthr Rev.2016;24(4):184-187.
  • Spondylolisthesis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/spondylolisthesis.
  • Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/spondylolysis-and-spondylolisthesis.


  • Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.