By Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/Physical Therapist


JOI Spine Physicians

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Spondylolysis is a defect or stress fracture in a vertebra of the spinal column. The region where it occurs is referred to as the pars interarticularis. This location is where facet joints of two adjacent vertebrae meet, and overlap. It is also the motion segment of the spine. A fracture of this nature can occur on any level of the spine, but most often occurs at the lowest levels of the spine, typically in the L4 or L5 vertebra. A spondylolysis can lead to a spondylolisthesis, which is the translation or slipping of one vertebra onto another vertebra.

Signs and Symptoms of Spondylolsis

Diagnosis of spondylolysis is often made with a combination of a subjective history as well as physical examination and imaging using an X-Ray, MRI, or CT scan. Patients will often complain of low back pain, stiffness, and/or muscle spasms. In more severe cases, symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness can radiate to one or both legs.

Causes of Spondylolisis

Typical causes of spondylolysis are due to trauma from participating in sports such as football or gymnastics. Movement, such as excessive hyperextension or backward bending can result in these stress fractures. There is a small segment of the population who has a genetic predisposition to weakness in the pars interarticularis, and can develop spondylolysis without trauma or direct injury.

Treatment of Spondylolis

There are a wide variety of treatments, depending on severity and lifestyle. Non-operative treatments include Physical Therapy, oral medications and injections. In more severe cases, surgery may be indicated, and one should seek an Orthopedist or spine specialist for more information.

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