Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra slips out of alignment with the rest of the spinal cord, leading to spinal instability. The slipped vertebra may put pressure on the disc or bone below it, but the condition does not always lead to symptoms and it is possible to live unaware of it for years. In some cases the slipped vertebra may compress a nerve, resulting in pain and other symptoms. See radiculopathy for more details. Spondylolisthesis is usually caused by trauma due to injury, age-related degeneration, or a malformation in the spine either before birth or during adolescence.

Athletes of certain sports that stretch the spine, such as gymnastics and football, are at a higher risk of developing spondylolisthesis.


Spondylolisthesis can often be treated with pain medication and physical therapy to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. If your pain is chronic and severe, or if it persists after trying conservative treatments, Dr. Li may recommend spinal fusion surgery.

Left and middle: spondylolisthesis. Right: anterior view of the spine following minimally invasive lateral interbody and posterior fusion surgery.

Incisions from a minimally invasive lateral interbody and posterior fusion surgery (same as above).