Understanding Spondylolisthesis and Spondylosis: What’s The Difference?

Spondylolisthesis v/s Spondylosis


When dealing with spinal issues, the terms can be confusing. The terms resemble but they actually describe different types of conditions that need unique care and treatment. Let’s learn more about the “Spondy” diagnosis. Each word starts with the prefix “spongy” which refers to the vertebral or spinal column.

If you are diagnosed with any of these conditions, something in your spine is not normal. It may be worrisome, as the spine is a very important part of the body. Don’t panic, various treatments are available nowadays for each one of them, which include medicines, exercise, rest, and in certain advanced cases surgery may be opted.

Let’s take a closer look at Spondylolisthesis v/s Spondylosis


Spondylosis can affect any region of the spine. Mainly it impacts the neck and lower back. It involves a defect in the pars interarticularis- a piece of bone attaching the facet joint at the back of the spine.

“This condition is a form of spinal degeneration occurring due to aging.”

Spondylosis can have different causes, two of the most common being spinal degeneration caused by arthritis of the spine and degenerative disc disease. The soft tissue supporting the spine discs, muscles tendons, etc. slowly begins to deteriorate as we grow older.

Spondylolisthesis v/s Spondylosis

Causes and Risk Factors:

  • Aging is the primary cause.
  • Injury to the spine.
  • Genetic predisposition: In detail, if someone directly related to you has suffered or is suffering from this condition, you have a higher chance of          developing it yourself.
  • Repetitive bending and twisting motion that places stress on a particular region of the spine. Over a long period of time, overusing the same part of the back may cause it to wear down faster.


  • Muscle spasms and twitching.
  • Back and neck pain that typically results due to nerve pinching.
  • Difficulty in walking and maintaining balance.
  • In rare cases, if the vertebra slips towards the spinal cord and places pressure on it. This can lead to serious problems and represents a medical emergency.


  • The conditions that are part of spondylosis are not reversible but their symptoms can be treated either through surgical or non-surgical ways.
  • Nonsurgical treatment options for spondylosis tend to focus on managing the symptoms, and more specifically managing the pain.
  • Steroid injections are administered to reduce the pain.
  •  Pain medication to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasm.


Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition where one of the vertebrae slips out. When one bone of the spine slips forward over the other. It causes damage to the spinal structure.


When spondylosis is left untreated, it may lead to spondylolisthesis. In some cases, a stress fracture may be the cause.

Some activities make the spine more prone to developing spondylolisthesis. For example, gymnasts, football players, and weightlifters of all ages can develop this condition.

Spondylolisthesis v/s Spondylosis

Types of Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis can be categorized according to the factors that cause it.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis: This condition is caused by wear and tear in the spine as we age.

Traumatic: An injury to the spin that can occur either due to repetitive movements or sudden trauma pushes the vertebra out of its place.

Congenital: A birth defect in which the spinal column is formed incorrectly as the fetus develops.

Pathological Spondylolisthesis: It is caused by diseases such as tumors or other bone diseases that cause structural weakness of the bones.


Symptoms of spondylolisthesis vary. In the acute stage, no signs may be observed. However, people with chronic diseases may not be able to carry out daily activities. Some common symptoms are:

  •   Persistent back pain.
  •   Stiffness in the lower back and neck.
  •   Muscle tension and tenderness in the lower back.

These symptoms are exacerbated by several activities such as standing, walking, and resting.


The choice of treatment depends on factors like the patient’s age, general health, the severity of symptoms, and the degree of spinal slip. Treatments can be opted from the following:

  •   Medical treatment: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory NSAIDS are recommended for the relief of pain and inflammation.
  •   Lumbar support can be used to stabilize the lower back and relieve pain.
  •   Physiotherapy: These exercises help in strengthening the back and abdominal muscles and minimize the movement of the spine.
  •   Surgery: Surgery is suggested if the pain doesn’t decrease with conservative care and starts to hinder day-to-day activity.


For both the above-discussed conditions diagnosis is the same. A spine surgeon will suggest having either of these for diagnoses like X-Ray, CT -Scans, or MRIs.


The majority of patients with Spondylosis or spondylolisthesis are free from pain and other symptoms after conservative care or surgical treatment. If you are having any of these symptoms discussed above or have been suffering from any of these conditions and you are looking for the best treatment option in Mumbai. Dr. Akhil Tawari is the best choice to guide you for any of your spine-related problems. Book an appointment today!