Blog » Back Injuries » Spondylolysis



  • Hereditary thin vertebrae
  • Hyperextension of the back such as excessive bending, lifting and twisting
  • Overuse injury seen in sports such as weightlifting, gymnastics, throwing sports
  • Sudden or gradual onset of lower back pain
  • Pain when resuming activity
  • RICE method
  • Back brace
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Physiotherapy

What is Spondylolysis?

Facet Joints are found in the back which help support the weight and control the movement between the individual vertebrae of the spine. Pars interarticularis are the thin bony structures which connect the vertebrae to the facet joints. Spondylolysis occurs when these bony structures are put under excessive stress and causing small fractures that in turn cause the vertebrae to weaken and slip out of place. The most common cause of spondylolysis is overuse injury and it usually seen in patients who perform excessive hyperextension movements such as bending, lifting and twisting. This is often seen in sports such as gymnastics, weight lifting and throwing sports. Facet joint sprain however can also occur due to impact or pressure to the spine causing damage to happen suddenly. Spondylolysis can also be a genetic condition whereby the patient has inherited thin vertebrae making them more at risk to fractures in the spinal column.

Spondylolysis Symptoms

When a patient sustains spondylolysis they are likely to feel pain in the lower back and spine which becomes more apparent over time as activity is resumed and the back is put under further strain. In the case of sudden impact, the pain may come on suddenly at the point of injury. Patients are also likely to feel pain and stiffness in the lower back after activity is halted which will become more apparent first thing in the morning. This pain is likely to be located on one side of the lower back and usually the opposite side to the arm which has performed the most hyperextension movements.

Spondylolysis Diagnosis

In order to diagnose spondylolysis, a doctor or physiotherapist will give an examination of the area and often a bone scan or CT scan will be undergone in order to confirm the diagnosis, evaluate the extent of the fracture and also to rule out any further complications.

Spondylolysis Treatment

In order to treat spondylolysis, rest is crucial in order to allow the injury time to heal and to prevent any further activity which could cause damage or cause discomfort to the injury. Patients may find wearing a back brace during the healing process will stabilize the area to improve healing effectiveness. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be taken in order to reduce swelling as well as relieving pain from the injury. When the injury has begun effective healing and you are advised by a physiotherapist or doctor, it is important for the patient to undergo a rehabilitation program such as strengthening and stretching exercises which will keep the area strong and make it easier to return to sports once the injury has fully recovered. These exercises should not be carried out if the patient feels pain in the area and the advice of a physiotherapist should always be sought in order to obtain an exercise regime suitable for the individual.