The exact cause of spondylolisthesis is unknown, although certain risk factors have been identified.


When you fracture your spine, vertebrae are more likely to become unstable and slip onto the vertebrae below.


The injury most often occurs in children and adolescents who participate in sports that involve overstretching and repeated stress on the lower back, such as gymnastics, football, and weight lifting. This is thought to be the cause of most “spondylolysis.” Over time this may result in spondylolisthesis.

Age-Related Degeneration

When you age, your discs lose water content. This causes them to become less spongy and resistant to movement by the vertebrae. In addition, the facet joints may develop wear and become loose. The facet joints help control the motion in the spine so if they wear out abnormal motion can occur. This makes it easier for the vertebrae to slip forward after a fracture.

Rapid Growth

When a child grows quickly, their spine may become unstable. This is due to the significant increase in length of their spine within a short amount of time. This can lead to a stress fracture which can cause a spinal bone to become weak and shift out of place. Along with overuse, rapid growth is considered to be the other main cause of “spondylolysis”, which may result in spondylolisthesis over time.

Weakened Bones / Arthritis

Arthritis in your spine causes your vertebrae to weaken. The weaker your bones are, the more likely they are to fracture. Once fractured, they’re likely to slip forward because the vertebrae itself is weaker as well.

Worn out facet joints and discs result in a loose segment which can slip. This results in spondylolisthesis and is generally referred to as degenerative spondylolisthesis (the most common type of spondylolisthesis).

Birth Defect

There are many types of birth defects – some are born without a facet joint on one side, an incompletely formed facet joints. If a child is born with a defect in their spine, it makes their spine more unstable, increasing the chances that their vertebrae will slip.


People of all ages are susceptible if the condition runs in the family. Some people may be born with vertebral bone that is thinner than normal. and this may make them more vulnerable to fractures.


Spondylosis is often a precursor to spondylolisthesis. Spondylosis occurs when there is a stress fracture in a vertebra, but it hasn’t yet fallen onto a lower bone in your spine. In some cases, the stress fracture weakens the bone so much that it is unable to maintain its proper position in the spine—and the vertebra starts to shift or slip out of place – resulting in spondylolisthesis.


The amount of pain you have depends on how fast your vertebrae are slipping and whether the displaced bone pinches any nerves. If you have very subtle symptoms, you may only feel tightness in your hamstrings or find that you can no longer touch your toes, but not feel any nerve pain.

When spondylolisthesis does cause pain, you may experience low back pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms

Some other common symptoms may include:
  • Pain when standing and bending over a countertop or sink
  • Muscle weakness and the feeling of instability
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Sharp pain extending down the legs
  • Sciatica (pain radiating down one or both legs)
  • Leg pain will usually be worse when you stand or walk.
  • Occasional numbness

The condition can lead to increased lordosis (also called swayback). In later stages, it may result in kyphosis (round-back) as the upper spine falls off the lower spine.

Disclaimer – All information is for educational pursuit and information purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The viewer should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding their medical condition, diagnosis, procedures, treatment plan, or other health related topics.