As we age, the alignment of our spines may be compromised as our ligaments, bones, and joints weaken. This in turn can cause a vertebra to slip forward, resulting in degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis VideoDegenerative spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that occurs as a result of aging processes.
Watch:
Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Video

Our video walk-through can help you visualize this sometimes painful process.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Article continues below

Video highlights

The above image pictures a vertebra (shaded in pink) slipping over the one below it as a result of a weakened spine.

See Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

Causes of degenerative spondylolisthesis

This slippage occurs because the natural aging process tends to weaken and dry out spinal discs (a compromised disc is pictured in pink), which may lead to arthritis. This arthritis can in turn weaken the ligaments and joints of your spine.

See Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Facet joints (pictured above in red) are located between and behind the adjacent vertebrae. If your facet joints weaken, it may allow your vertebra to slip forward.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

The image above shows the L4-L5 and L3-L4 segments of the spine. Degenerative spondylolisthesis usually occurs in this area of your spine, known as the lumbar spine (or lower back).

See All about the L4-L5 Spinal Segment

Of note, degenerative spondylolisthesis typically occurs in only one level of your spine, but it can occur in up to three levels simultaneously; and it rarely occurs in the cervical spine (or neck).

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

Symptoms

The above image depicts the spinal cord (shown in orange) as it travels through the spinal canal. Lower back pain can result if your slipped vertebra compresses the nerve roots in your spinal canal.

See Lower Back Pain Symptoms and Causes

You may also experience pain that radiates into your legs, a tired feeling in your legs, or difficulty walking from pinched nerves or tight hamstrings. But the good news is that many people with degenerative spondylolisthesis experience no symptoms.

See Causes of Leg Pain and Foot Pain

Degenerative spondylolisthesis is also linked to a number of conditions, such as arthritis and degenerative disc disease.

See What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Understanding the causes and symptoms of degenerative spondylolisthesis can go a long way towards helping you develop an effective treatment program with your doctor.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Symptoms

Lean more:

Surgery for Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Treatment