When you come to the University of Michigan Health Comprehensive Spine Program for spondylolisthesis (spawn-dee-lo-LISS-tha-sis), you’ll be evaluated by our multidisciplinary team of specialists who will work with you to determine a personalized treatment plan. Our goal is to offer the most advanced and least invasive treatment to help improve your quality of life.

What is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis (spawn-dee-lo-LISS-tha-sis) is a condition of the spine in which one of the vertebrae slips forward or backward, sometimes pressing on the spinal cord or nerve root. The condition most often occurs in the lower spine, but can also occur in the cervical spine. It can be caused by a congenital defect, an injury or trauma, arthritic changes in the joints of the vertebra, or a bone defect.  


While individuals with mild cases of spondylolisthesis may not experience symptoms, those with a more severe condition might experience:

  • Pain in the lower back or buttock that becomes worse when moving or carrying things
  • Tightness, numbness, or weakness in leg muscles
  • Tenderness in the lower back
  • Radiating pain in the leg that worsens when standing and relieved when sitting


Our collaborative team begins by conducting a complete medical history and physical exam, followed by advanced testing that might include:

  • Imaging, such as X-rays, CT scans or an MRI 

After your diagnostic tests are completed, our specialists will talk with you about your treatment options.


Non-Surgical Treatment

Non-surgical treatment may include: 

  • Physical therapy to help strengthen core muscles. 
  • Stationery bike exercises. 
  • Pain management, including anti-inflammatory and pain medications, muscle relaxers and steroid injections. 
  • Traditional medicine combined with holistic therapies such as yoga, healing touch and acupuncture.

Surgical Treatment

If non-surgical treatments do not help, or if the pain worsens, surgical treatments would be considered, such as:

  • Laminectomy: A procedure to remove fragments of bone and soft tissue that are pushing on the nerves.
  • Laminectomy and Spinal Fusion: For more severe cases, these two procedures may be combined. A fusion is a procedure that reduces the movement in the damaged spine segment by permanently connecting two or more vertebrae using screws and rods to stabilize the spine. A bone graft is also typically performed using additional bone to fill in gaps between the vertebrae and stimulate the healing process. For lumbar spondylolisthesis, the procedure is typically done from the back. For cervical spondylolisthesis, the procedure is most often performed from the front of the neck.

Contact Us

You're about to make an important decision, and we want to help you make a good one. Our staff will be glad to talk with you about your options and how we can help. Please visit our Make an Appointment page for more information.