What is Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis?

Also known as: Spondylolysis, Spondylolisthesis

What are Spinal Infections?

When a teen athlete has lower back pain, the most common causes are spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis.


This condition involves a stress fracture in a vertebra in the lower spine.


This condition is the progression of spondylolitis. The small fracture weakens the bone, causing the vertebra to shift out of place.

Causes, Incidence and Risk Factors

  • Some children are born with a congenital predisposition to develop these conditions.
  • For others, it is caused by stress to the spine caused by sports such as gymnastics, dance, weight lifting and football.


  • The most common symptom is pain that spreads across the lower back.
  • Pain may feel like muscle strain.

Diagnosis and Tests

are usually diagnosed following:

  • X-ray of the lower back
  • An MRI or CT scan
  • EOS Scan 


Nonsurgical Treatment

  • Taking time off from sports activities to allow healing to occur
  • Use Ibuprofen to reduce pain
  • Use of a back brace, if recommended
  • Stretching and strengthening exercise may help prevent reoccurrence.

Surgical Treatment

  • Surgery may be needed if vertebra continue to slip and does not respond to nonsurgical care.

Reviewed by: Stephen Graham George Jr., MD

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:14:50 PM

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