Spondylolisthesis Specialist

The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles

Brian R. Gantwerker, MD

Neurosurgeon located in Santa Monica, CA

An estimated 6-7% of adolescents develop some degree of spondylolisthesis by the time they’re 18, and the condition affects up to 18% of all adults. Brian Gantwerker, MD, at The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles has extensive experience relieving the pain and other symptoms of spondylolisthesis with minimally invasive surgery. If you suffer from back or leg pain, call Dr. Gantwerker’s Santa Monica, California call us at (310) 694-8300 or email us at info@craniospinalcenter.com.

Spondylolisthesis Q & A

What is spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips forward and moves out of alignment with the rest of spine. Although the problem can affect your cervical spine (neck), it most often develops in the lumbar spine (lower back).

What causes spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis typically arises from two causes:


Spondylolysis is a stress fracture that develops in a small portion of the vertebra that connects two facet joints. As the bone weakens, the vertebra can slip out of place. The fracture commonly occurs due to repetitive stress during physical activities such as gymnastics, weightlifting, and football.

Degenerative spondylolisthesis

Over time, ligaments weaken, discs dehydrate, and joints in the spine degenerate or develop arthritis. One or more of these changes can cause a vertebra to collapse or slip out of place.  

What spondylolisthesis symptoms might I develop?

A mild case of spondylolisthesis may not cause any symptoms, or you may find that it’s hard to bend over and touch your toes even though you don’t feel pain.

Spondylolisthesis is also known as “spinal slippage.” As the slippage worsens and symptoms appear, you could experience problems such as:

  • Lower back pain
  • Back stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain radiating to the buttocks and back of thighs
  • Pain that’s worse when you stand or walk and improves with rest


When a nerve is pinched due to the slipped disc, you may also feel tingling, numbness, or weakness in your legs.

How do you treat spondylolisthesis?

Conservative treatment such as temporarily avoiding athletic activities, wearing a back brace, and physical therapy can help relieve pain and improve movement. But surgery is often needed when you have:

  • Severe spondylolisthesis
  • Slippage that’s progressively worsening
  • Back pain that persists despite nonsurgical treatment


Dr. Gantwerker specializes in minimally invasive surgery to treat spondylolisthesis. Not every case of spondylolisthesis needs a fusion. In some cases, decompression alone or placing motion-preservation devices may be adequate.

During minimally invasive surgery, Dr. Gantwerker accesses your spine using small incisions and a special microscope for viewing the surgical site.

Minimally invasive spine surgery causes less trauma and spares your muscles. In most cases, Dr. Gantwerker can gently push muscles aside to allow narrow surgical instruments to reach your spine. As a result, your recovery is quicker compared to traditional open surgery.  This leads to a quicker return to your lifestyle and recovery of function.

If you suffer from persistent back pain due to spondylolisthesis, call The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles or book an appointment online.