How to Say It: spon-dee-low-lie-sis
Spondylolysis is a stress fracture in one of the vertebrae (spinal bones) in the lower back. It may be on one or both sides.
Early treatment can improve outcomes.
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This problem is caused by doing repetitive tasks, such as flexing, extending, or rotating the lower back. This leads to trauma that happens over time.
This problem is more common in young adults, especially those who do sports. It is also more common in men.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Most people do not have symptoms. Others may have:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the back.
Images of the spine may be taken. This can be done with:
The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and promote healing. Medicines will be given to ease pain. Other choices are:
People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery. Choices are:
There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Ortho Info—American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Goetzinger S, Courtney S, et al. Spondylolysis in young athletes: An overview emphasizing non operative management. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2020;2020:9235958. Published 2020 Jan 21.
Lumbar spondylolysis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-spondylolysis. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Nitta A, Sakai T, et al. Prevalence of Symptomatic Lumbar Spondylolysis in Pediatric Patients. Orthopedics. 2016;39(3):e434-e437.
Overley SC, McAnany SJ, Andelman S, et al. Return to play in adolescent athletes with symptomatic spondylolysis without listhesis: A Meta-analysis. Global Spine J. 2018;8(2):190-197.
Selhorst M, Allen M, et al. Rehabilitation considerations for spondylolysis in the youth athlete. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2020;15(2):287-300.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 2/17/2021