Medical Naming & Definitions: Spondylolysis, Spondylolisthesis

Overview

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae. The “spondy” conditions relate to issues of the vertebrae:

  1. Spondylosis / Spinal Osteoarthritis – vertebral arthritis
  2. Spondylitis / SpA – vertebral inflammation
  3. Spondylolysis (spon-dee-low-lye-sis) – break, crack or stress fracture in the vertebral arch
  4. Spondylolisthesis (spon-dee-low-lis-thee-sis) – vertebral slippage

#1 Spondylosis (Vertebral Arthritis)

  • Spondylosis is also known as spinal osteoarthritis.
  • It is a degenerative condition that may affect any region of the spine.
  • You will find more information on our support page for arthritis which is under construction and will be complete by mid-November.

#2 Spondylitis (Vertebral Inflammation)

  • Spondyloarthritis is also referred to as spondylitis or SpA.
  • There are different classification systems within this category of conditions. Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and Axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) are names of inflammatory conditions in the spine that fall within this category.
  • You will find more information on our support page for arthritis which is under construction and will be complete by mid-November.

#3 Spondylolysis (Vertebral Arch Fracture)

  • Often caused by repetitive trauma, especially hyperextension.
  • It may occur in people of all ages but children and adolescents are most at risk because their spines are still developing.
  • See below for more information.

#4 Spondylolisthesis (Vertebral Slippage)

  • This is the name given when a vertebral arch fracture weakens the bone so much that the vertebra starts to shift or slip out of place.
  • Both spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are more likely to occur in young people who participate in sports that require frequent hyperextension of the lumbar spine such as gymnastics, football, and weightlifting.
  • See below for more information.