Spondylolysis is described as a stress fracture involving part of the spine called the pars interarticularis. It is an overuse injury that is quite common among young athletes who engage in sports that entail a lot of bending backwards as well as rotation of the spine. To learn to recognize and manage spinal conditions including spondylolysis, sign up for first aid training here.
This condition is quite common among young athletes who engage in sports that include throwing as well as those who play cricket and baseball. It is important to note that spondylolysis that affects both sides of the spine is often linked with spondylolisthesis or forward slippage of a lumbar vertebra. It is best to have this condition properly diagnosed.
What are the symptoms?
- There is lower back pain on one side of the back, but there might be no symptoms at all in some cases
- The pain is aggravated when the individual engages in certain activities that involve bending of the spine backwards
- Abrupt onset of pain resulting from a specific activity that involves back extension
- Tightened hamstring muscles
- An increase in the lumbar curvature in the spine might be present
- Tenderness of the site of the fracture when pressed in
- There is pain that can be reproduced when the individual stands on one leg and leans
It is important to note that the fracture typically occurs on the opposite side to an aggravating activity. A diagnosis is usually confirmed by an X-ray, but a recent injury will not always show up. In some cases, a bone scan or single photon emission computed tomography can provide an accurate image of the affected area. Defects on the pars interarticularis can be split into early, progressive and terminal stages which depend on the severity and age of the injury.
An early diagnosis with a pars defect is important since most of the primary stages can heal and result to bone re-union. If a fracture occurs on only one side, it is likely to heal than those that involve two fractures. The fractures that occur on the L4 vertebra are more likely to heal than those on the L5.
Treatment of spondylolysis
- The individual should rest from aggravating activities or sports.
- It is vital to strengthen the core muscles in the abdomen and lower back as soon as the pain allows. Do not forget to stretch out the hamstring and gluteal muscles as well.
- Once movements that generate pain can be done without triggering any discomfort, a gradual return to a particular sport can be done.
- Any changes to the technique in a particular sport must be done if needed to help prevent the recurrence of injuries.
If the individual experiences any of the symptoms of spondylolysis, it is important to consult a doctor first for proper assessment of the condition and start the appropriate treatment.