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Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

These are separate but sometimes related conditions.

What Is the Difference Between Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolysis

Spondylolysis is a spinal stress fracture of a bone structure called the pars interarticularis. This structure connects the facet joints of the spine. A fracture of the pars interarticularis (sometimes called by the shortened name, "pars fracture") usually occurs during childhood or adolescence from repetitive stress, rather than from an acute injury. It is a common condition of children and teenagers who are involved in organized sports. Active kids and teens with spondylolysis may experience symptoms. However, some people with this condition may not develop symptoms until later in adulthood.

Symptoms of Spondylolysis

Symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the back, neck, legs, thighs or shoulder
  • Muscle spasms or weakness
  • Headache
  • Tingling, numbness and/or stiffness in the back
 

Illustration of the spinal column and location of a pars fracture

Illustration showing a pars fracture from the side
View from the side
Illustration showing a pars fracture from the top
View from the top
 

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is when spinal vertebrae slip forward over one another. This can result over time from spondylolysis. A different form of this condition, called degenerative spondylolisthesis, is caused by the deterioration (degeneration) of the facet joints and discs of the spine.

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis

Symptoms can include:

  • Localized low back pain
  • Pain that radiates down to the legs (if there is associated nerve compression)

Below, find articles and other content for more information about these conditions, as well as a link to HSS doctors who treat them.

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