Degenerative Spondylolisthesis vs. Isthmic Spondylolisthesis

In spondylolisthesis, one vertebral body slides forward relative to its neighbor to the south.  There can be several different causes of this.  The two most common types of spondylolisthesis are isthmic spondylolisthesis and degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Here are some of the major differences:

Isthmic spondylolisthesis

  • Originally occurs in a young person (age 5 through adolescence)
  • Due to a stress fracture of part of the vertebra known as the “isthmus” or “pars interarticularis”
  • Oftentimes is asymptomatic, though over time the condition can progress and cause pain, movement limitation, or neurological compromise.
  • Most common at the L5-S1 level

Degenerative spondylolisthesis

  • Occurs in a person over 60
  • Due to long term degeneration of the spinal joints
  • Can be asymptomatic, but it can cause pain and other symptoms.  May be hard to tell if the symptoms are from the spondylolisthesis itself or are due to the general degeneration of the spinal joints
  • Most common at L3-L4 or L4-L5.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Doctors’ Guide to Spondylolisthesis




About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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