Spondylolysis occurs when a spine problem causes a small crack, or stress fracture, between two bones in the spine (vertebrae). It is also known as pars defect or as a stress fracture.
The pars interarticularis is a thin bone segment joining two vertebrae. The pars interarticularis is where the stress fracture occurs, and it is often the result of repetitive stress. This condition is fairly common and is found in one out of every 20 people.
It’s possible to have spondylolysis and not even feel any symptoms. When there are symptoms, the only one is usually back pain. The pain often gets worse with activity and playing sports, and is more notable when extending your body backward. Generally, this pain doesn’t interfere with everyday activities. If it persists, it is recommended to seek the attention of a medical specialist.
Depending on the degree of pain, treatment options include:
- Rest/break from sports
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physical therapy for muscle strengthening and general conditioning
- A lumbar brace
Surgery to repair the fracture is rarely needed, as the pain is expected to fade over time in most cases.
Spondylolysis versus spondylolisthesis
Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are related but not the same.
Spondylolisthesis is when one vertebra slips out of place over the vertebra below.
Spondylolysis is a common cause of spondylolisthesis because the crack in the vertebra may cause the bone to slip.