Spondylosis and Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis and spondylosis are both conditions that affect the spine. Spondylolisthesis happens when one of the vertebrae, the bones in the spinal column, slides over the one beneath it. Spondylosis is basically pain caused by a spinal condition.


Spondylolisthesis can be said to be a consequence of aging. The ligaments and other structures that stabilize the spinal column weaken over time and makes the slippage of spondylolisthesis more likely. The condition is fairly common in people over 50 and is three times more common in women than in men.

Spondylolisthesis is usually found in the lumbar spine, or the lower back. These are the L3-L4 positions and the L4-L5 positions. The L4-L5 positions are more common.

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis

An interesting fact of Spondylolisthesis is that the facet joints in the vertebrae actually get bigger as they degenerate. This makes them impinge on the spinal canal that encloses the nerve.

This in turn puts pressure on the nerve and can result in:

  • Lower back pain.
  • Leg pain.
  • Sciatica. With sciatic pain, the patient complains that their legs ache or feel heavy, especially when they have to stand up for long periods. Their legs also hurt when they walk. This condition is called pseudoclaudication.
  • Pain that is eased when the person sits down because the spinal canal opens up a bit, and the pressure on the nerve lessens.
  • Tight hamstring muscles in the thighs.
  • Stiffness in the lower back.
  • Pain when they bend backwards.
  • Weakness in the legs.

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Another interesting thing about spondylolisthesis is that the spinal cord ends before the lumbar spine, so the nerve is not suffering damage even if the patient is in a lot of pain.

Some patients have more pain in their back than they do in their leg. For others, the opposite is true.


There are many treatment modalities for spondylolisthesis. The patient can modify their activities by resting, trying to not stand or walk for long periods of time, not bending over backwards and exercising. Chiropractic treatment has been shown to be effective for spondylolisthesis, and patients with severe pain benefit from epidural injections. Most patients do not need surgery, though surgery is an option.


Spondylosis is more of a descriptor than a clinical term. It means that the person has a degenerative condition in the spine that’s causing them pain. It can be said that spondylolisthesis is a type of spondylosis.

A person with spondylosis can also have facet joint arthritis, which causes pain when they exercise. They can have spinal stenosis where their spinal canal narrows and causes pain in the leg. They can have a degenerative disc disease. In this condition, the disc that cushions one vertebrae from another starts to deteriorate and dry out. This can happen in the leg or the neck and can cause pain in the leg and pain in the arm.


Because spondylosis can be caused by so many things, treatment varies. As with spondylolisthesis, treatment can range from epidural injections, exercise, moderation of activity to surgery.

If You’re Suffering from Back Pain, arrange for a consultation with Jeffrey M. Epstein.