Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

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Spondylolysis refers to the gradual degeneration of the spinal structures because of natural age-related wear and tear. The spine is a complex organ consisting of numerous components and structures, including vertebrae, intervertebral discs, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerve roots, and the spinal cord. The spinal discs generally act as shock absorbers that minimize friction between adjacent vertebrae, allowing you to bend, stretch, and move comfortably.

Over time, the intervertebral discs lose water and stiffen, making the surrounding vertebrae grind against each other during regular movements. As your bones grind against each other, you may develop osteophytes and bone spurs that further weaken and damage the vertebrae and surrounding nerve roots. These age-related changes (and many others) can also compress the nerve roots, leading to symptoms of radiculopathy.

The specific symptoms of spondylolysis depend on several factors, such as which spinal structures are damaged, the extent of damage, the location of damage (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar), and whether there’s any nerve compression.

Spondylolysis: Symptoms

  • Neck or back pain, ranging from mild to severe
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loss of mobility in the arms or legs
  • Radiating pains down the arms or legs
  • Chronic headaches and shoulder pain
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Loss of muscle strength and involuntary spasms
  • Gait changes and instability
  • Difficulty while walking or twisting
  • Difficulty in raising the arms above the head
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

Spondylolysis: Causes

  • Age-related wear and tear
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Disc herniation
  • Spinal trauma and injuries


Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition wherein the vertebrae of the spine slip out of place. The spinal column consists of 33 vertebrae, each stacked on top of the other and separated by cushion-like spinal discs. The spondylolisthesis condition occurs when one vertebra slides out of place and rubs against the adjacent vertebra, leading to severe back pain, loss of movement and sensation, instability, and neurologic problems. The specific symptoms depend on the location and degree of spinal slippage.

Spondylolisthesis: Symptoms

  • Severe back pain
  • Sciatica pain (for lumbar spine slippage)
  • Cervical pain (for cervical spine slippage)
  • Muscle weakness at different parts of the body
  • Intense burning sensation at different parts of the body
  • Numbness and tingling sensations at different parts of the body
  • Shooting pains down the legs or arms
  • Radiating pain starting at the buttocks and extending down
  • Inability to walk or stand comfortably

Spondylolisthesis: Causes

  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis: Fracture of the isthmus or the pars interarticularis
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis: Facet joint arthritis or age-related degeneration
  • Congenital Spondylolisthesis: Abnormal bone formation since childhood
  • Pathological Spondylolisthesis: Osteoporosis, spinal tumors, or infections
  • Post-Surgical Spondylolisthesis: Spinal displacement because of surgical intervention
  • Traumatic Spondylolisthesis: Spinal traumas and injuries because of accidents or falls

Contact Dr. George Kakoulides

Dr. George Kakoulides is a board-certified neurosurgeon with specialized training in minimally invasive spine surgery. He uses the latest, cutting-edge tools and technologies to diagnose and treat the root cause of your spinal conditions, helping you achieve long-lasting pain relief. He generally starts with conservative treatments, and he only recommends spine surgery if all other solutions fail to produce the desired results. Please schedule an appointment to explore your spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis treatment options in New York.