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.
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Spondylolysis can be caused by:
Factors that may increase the chance of spondylolysis include:
Many people have no symptoms at all. In those that have them, symptoms may include:
You will be asked 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.
The doctor may suggestwearing 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.
To relieve the pain and prevent recurrences, a physical therapist can teach:
Medications may be given 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
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Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 12/20/2014