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Spondylolisthesis is a condition that describes the misalignment of the vertebrae in the spine. Often for patients with this condition, a vertebra in the spine will slip due to injury or other spine condition and will move out of the natural alignment of the spine. This could result in pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in certain areas of the spine.

Spondylolisthesis occurs when the vertebrae of the spine move out of their natural alignment. This condition usually occurs in the lumbar (lower back) portion of the spine due to the natural compression of the spine over time.

The spine is comprised of several small bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of each other. In between each vertebra is a small, sponge-like disc that serves to cushion the vertebrae and allow mobility. Also located in between the vertebrae are joints made up of soft tissue. The joints allow the vertebrae to bend and move, ultimately allowing your spine to have a range of motion.

While some spondylolisthesis causes are unavoidable, there are activities that can put you at a higher risk for a slipped vertebra. Gymnasts, weightlifters and football players are especially vulnerable to spondylolisthesis because so much pressure is placed on their backs, particularly the lower back.

Other spondylolisthesis causes include:

  • Fractures —Spondylolisthesis is often caused by small fractures to the joints in the spine. This can cause a vertebra to become unhinged and slip forward. The fractures can be partial or complete, and sometimes fragments of bone are broken off, which can cause a pinched nerve.
  • Aging — As the body ages, the spinal discs dry out, making them less capable of handling movement and absorbing shock. As a disc loses its ability to act as a cushion, it increases the chance that a vertebra will slip forward.
  • Tumors — Tumors can weaken bones, causing fractures and potentially leading to a vertebral slip.
  • Surgery — Slippage can result from a back surgery; however, it is rare.
  • A birth defect — It is possible to be born with a defective joint that can increase the risk of developing spondylolisthesis

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