Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra slips forward on the one beneath it. It may result from a number of causes, including trauma to the spine or osteoarthritis (wear and tear) of the spine, or it may have been acquired from birth.

The amount the vertebra has slipped forward on the one beneath it may be minimal or very significant.

  • There may be no symptoms or there may be back pain and the back may feel stiff.  
  • If the slip has caused pressure on a nerve root, pain may be felt in the buttocks or thigh.  
  • With a major slip, an increase in the bend of the lower back can be noticed (called increased lordosis).

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the symptoms. This may range from simple exercises and physical therapy to spinal fusion (hyperlink glossary) to stabilize the spine.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. “Ankylosing,” in Greek, means, “causing stiffness and immobility of a joint,” and “spondylitis” means inflammation of one or more vertebrae.

Ankylosing spondylitis causes inflammation of the ligaments and tendons that connect the vertebrae and ultimately results in fusion of the spine. This occurs because the inflammation causes some damage to the bone, and the body heals this damage by growing new bone, which replaces the elastic soft tissue at the back of the spine. This can result in stiffness and pain. In some cases, as the fusion progresses, the spine curves forward, causing a person to stoop.

Ankylosing spondylitis occurs sometimes in people with psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Stiffness and pain usually begins in the pelvis and at the base of the spine, and progresses upward through the back and to the neck. The back is generally stiff in the morning and improves during the day. Early diagnosis and treatment can control the pain and stiffness.

For more detailed information about Ankylosing Spondylitis, go to Ankylosing Spondylitis.

Osteoporosis And Fractures Of The Lumbar Spine

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density and bone strength decreases, making a person more susceptible to fractures. It is a major cause of bone fractures in postmenopausal women and older persons in general.

Because the signs of osteoporosis are subtle and can be easily missed, many people do not know they have osteoporosis until a bone actually breaks. In many cases it is the vertebrae that fracture, causing back pain or deformity. The hip and wrist are also common sites of fractures resulting from osteoporosis.

After menopause, osteoporosis is much more common in women. Bone loss in the spine results in reduced bone strength, and this can easily lead to fractures of the spine.

Johns Hopkins patient information

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