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Spondylolisthesis describes the anterior or posterior displacement of a vertebra or the vertebral column in relation to the vertebrae below. It was first described in 1782 by Belgian obstetrician, Dr. Herbinaux. He reported a bony prominence anterior to the sacrum that obstructed the vagina of a small number of patients. The term “spondylolisthesis” was coined in 1854, from the Greek σπονδυλος = "vertebra" and "ὁλισθος" = "slipperiness", "a slip". The variant "listhesis", resulting from misdivision of this compound word, is sometimes applied in conjunction with scoliosis. These "slips" occur most commonly in the lumbar spine.


An individual suffering from spondylolisthesis will typically experience generalized pain in the lower back, along with intermittent shocks of shooting pain beginning in the buttock traveling downward into the back of the thigh and/or lower leg. Sciatica that extends below the knee and may be felt in the feet. Sometimes symptoms include tingling and numbness. Sitting and trying to stand up may be painful and difficult. Coughing and sneezing can intensify the pain. The individual may also note a "slipping sensation" when moving into an upright position. An increase in activity level, for an individual experiencing pain of this type, will likely cause the individual to experience an increase in pain levels in the day(s) following the activity due to inflammation of the soft tissues, which is alleviated with reduced activity and/or rest.