Isthmic spondylolisthesis can occur in your lumbar spine (lower back) if a fracture of your isthmus causes one of your vertebral bodies to slip forward on top of the one below it.

See Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain

Isthmic spondylolisthesis is a fairly common condition among young athletes. Watch: Isthmic Spondylolisthesis Video

Read on to learn more about this condition by way of our video walk-through.

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Video highlights

The cause of isthmic spondylolisthesis

A small segment of bone called the isthmus connects your facet joints at the back of your spine. The isthmus is thin and has a poor blood supply, making it susceptible to stress fractures.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

A fracture of your isthmus usually occurs as a result of cumulative stress to your spine—not from a sudden trauma. When this type of fracture occurs, it is known as a spondylolysis.

See Profile and Diagnosis of Spondylolysis

This type of fracture can lead to a slippage of your vertebrae, and this condition is known as spondylolisthesis.

See Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

Isthmic spondylolisthesis is fairly common among young athletes who play sports that involve the repetitive hyperextension of the lower back (bending backwards)—such as in gymnastics.

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Location and symptoms

Isthmic spondylolisthesis usually occurs at the lowest level of your lumbar spine, called the L5-S1 segment.

See All about L5-S1 (Lumbosacral Joint)

After taking a side-view X-ray, the severity of the slippage of your vertebra is measured using a scale from 1 to 4.

Occasionally, no immediate pain is associated with isthmic spondylolisthesis. The most common type of pain from isthmic spondylolisthesis is a deep ache in your lower back.

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Your pain from isthmic spondylolisthesis will often be worse when standing, walking, or during activities that involve bending backward. You may also experience tightness in your hamstrings.

See Pain from Isthmic Spondylolisthesis in Adults

Another possible source of pain can be nerve root compression, which may occur if the disc space between two of your vertebra wears out. This nerve root compression may cause radiating pain, numbness, or weakness in your legs.

See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Treatment options

Non-surgical treatment options for isthmic spondylolisthesis include pain medications, heat and/or cold therapy, physical therapy, manual manipulation, and epidural steroid injections. If none of these treatments work to relieve your pain, you may want to talk with your medical professional about your surgical options.

See Spondylolisthesis Treatment

I hope all of the above information will help you better communicate with your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing from isthmic spondylolisthesis.

Learn more:

Deciding on Surgery for Isthmic Spondylolisthesis

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis