Spondylolisthesis is a term to describe forward slippage of a vertebra in relationship to the vertebra below. This condition is usually preceded by a condition known as spondylolysis. Spondylolysis can be described as a separation or fracture in the pars interarticularis or the part of the bony arch in the posterior portion of a vertebra. The pars interarticularis is the weakest part of the vertebra and the area most likely to experience a stress fracture. The L5 vertebra is the most commonly affected bone followed by L4 vertebra.

The two main causes for spondylolysis are genetics and sports such as football, gymnastics and weight lifting. Variations in the thickness and strength of the pars interarticularis is related to heredity and can account for an increased susceptibility to fracture. Sports that involve hyperextension of the spine and heavy compressive forces can cause the vertebrae to fracture.

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