Spondylolysis is a crack or stress fracture through the pars interarticularis, which is a small, thin portion of the vertebra that connects the upper and lower facet joints. This injury is most common in children/adolescents who participate in sports involving excessive and repeated stress on the lower back.
In some cases, the stress fracture weakens the bone to the point that it can’t maintain its correct position in the spine. This can cause the vertebra to shift or slip out of place, leading to a condition called spondylolisthesis.
The doctors at Austin Sports Medicine will make a determination of spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis by examining a child for areas of tenderness, limited range of motion, and muscle weakness or spasms. Imaging studies such as X-rays or MRI scans may help confirm the diagnosis.
For most patients with spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, back pain and other symptoms will improve during a course of non-surgical treatment that will include a period of rest from sports and other strenuous activities. Non-surgical treatment may also include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and bracing.
In cases where non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful in relieving pain or when slippage is sever or worsening, doctors may recommend a surgical procedure to stabilize the spine, prevent further slippage, and alleviate back pain.