Spondylolysis is a stress fracture. It occurs in a part of the vertebrae (spinal bone). The pars interarticularis is a portion of the bone between the facets. There is a right and left section.
This condition occurs in the lower back. About 90% of the time, it is in the fifth lumbar vertebra. It can fracture on one or both sides (bilateral). Left untreated, it can lead to spondylolisthesis. This is a more serious condition. The vertebra slips forward on the one below it. Both conditions can cause back pain.
This fracture is the most common cause of back pain in adolescent athletes.
Spondylolysis can be caused by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase the chance of spondylolysis include:
Many people have no symptoms at all. In those that have them, symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests to find the fracture and look for other problems in the soft tissue may include:
If you have symptoms, treatment may include:
Do not do athletic activities for several weeks to several months. In general, this restriction should last until the symptoms are gone.
Your doctor may suggest that you wear a back brace. This will help relieve pain. About 4-6 weeks of bracing may be needed. The brace should limit extension of the lower (lumbar) spine.
Physical Therapy TOP
To relieve the pain and prevent recurrences, a physical therapist can teach you:
The doctor may give you medications for pain relief.
Surgery may be needed if there is:
Two procedures are usually needed:
To help reduce your chance of spondylolysis:
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Boden BP, Osbahr DC, et al. Low-risk stress fractures. Am J Sports Med. 2001;29(1):100-111.
Bono CM. Low-back pain in athletes. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2004;86-A(2):382-396.
Eddy D, Congeni J, et al. A review of spine injuries and return to play. Clin J Sport Med. 2005;15(6):453-458.
Herman MJ, Pizzutillo PD. Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis in the child and adolescent: A new classification. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2005;(434):46-54.
Peer KS, Fascione JM. Spondylolysis: a review and treatment approach. Orthop Nurs. 2007;26(2):104-111.
Sakai T, Yamada H, et al. Lumbar spinal disorders in patients with athetoid cerebral palsy: a clinical and biomechanical study. Spine. 2006;31(3):E66-E70.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.