By Ehren Allen, DPT/Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist


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. However, most often occurs at the lowest levels of the spine. Usually in the L4 or L5 lumbar vertebra or the low back area. A spondylolysis can lead to a spondylolisthesis, which is the translation or slipping of one vertebra onto another vertebra. JOI has several orthopedic spine physicians who treat all of the spine disorders related to this issue.

Image and label of spondylolysis and pars interarticularisstress fracture


Signs and Symptoms of Spondylolysis

Diagnosis of spondylolysis is often made with a combination of a subjective history as well as physical examination.  This probably will include 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.  If you have pain going down the back of your legs, it is important to be evaluated by a physician.  When these conditions are caught early, the outcomes are much better!

Causes of Spondylolysis

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.  This can develop spondylolysis without trauma or direct injury.

Treatment of Spondylolysis

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.  JOI has several physical therapists who work with all of the conditions of the back.  Our therapists work closely with our physicians to develop programs specific to your issue.  JOI rehab has a fast track program to get you in therapy quickly.  In conclusion, there is no need to wait if you are in pain.

If you want to learn more about low back pain, go to low back pain or sciatica neuralgia.

Did you know, that The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has been voted as Bold City Best for the past several years.  JOI is the Best Orthopedic Practice and Physical Therapy Practice!  JOI is proud to be the area’s leader in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics.

Written by: Ehren Allen, DPT/Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist

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