Spondylolisis and Spondylolisthesis

Is spondylolysis the same as spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are related but not the same.


Spondylolysis (or occasionally spelt as Spondylolysis) is a defect of the spinal vertebrae at the area where two vertebrae meet, usually a stress fracture. It most commonly occurs in the lumbar spine area, in particular, the 5th lumbar vertebrae (and some less often the 4th vertebrae).

Spondylolisthesis is a severe form of spondylolysis, where the stressed portion of the vertebrae separates; causing the vertebrae to ‘slip’ forward. 

Lower back pain worsened with activity, especially overarching (hyperextension) of the spine.

Most often develops in young teenagers who are active in sports. Often, they may not exhibit signs of pain or is mild and easily overlooked. An X-ray is usually taken to confirm this diagnosis.



Both spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are more likely to occur in young people who participate in sports that require frequent overstretching (hyperextension) of the lumbar spine — such as; gymnastics, football, and weightlifting.

Over time, this type of repetitive activity can weaken the pars interarticularis, leading to fracture and/or slippage of a vertebra.


The lower lumbar spine has a risk of developing stress weakness at the location of a spondylolysis in all children, adolescents, and adults who walk upright. Doctors believe that some people may be born with vertebral bone that is thinner than normal — and this may make them more vulnerable to fractures.

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