What is Spondylolysis – Lumbar Stress Fractures

Spondylosis is a common cause of low back pain in young athletes. It is a small crack or stress fracture in one of the vertebra (the small bones forming the spine), specifically in a region called the parts interarticularis. In this progresses, the defect can weaken the bones causing one to slips out of place, a condition called spondylolisthesis.

Signs and Symptoms

Most cases may be asymptomatic at first, however if left untreated or when aggravated symptoms include:

  • Spontaneous onset of back pain, usually a unilateral dominance
  • Gradual onset of pain or acute, sharp pain after intense athletic activity
  • Aggravated by arching the lower back or standing
  • Increase in pain with lumbar extension or rotation
  • Pain may spread into the buttock or thigh
  • Pain eased by rest
  • Tightness in hamstrings

What Causes Spondylolysis?

Spondylolysis is considered a stress fracture as it commonly results from repetitive mechanical stress or loading at the pars interarticularis. For this reason, it occurs more frequently in the young athletic population, and there is an increased risk in gymnasts, football players, cricketers, swimmers, dancers, weight lifters and wrestlers.

  • Activities that over stress the pars interarticularis
  • Activities requiring repetitive rotation and/or hyperextension


If you think you may have spondylolysis it is best to seek professional advice where our physiotherapist can perform specific tests to confirm a correct diagnosis. The condition can be very successfully rehabilitated if identified early and correctly.

A Rehabilitation Program will have four key elements:

  1. Control pain and inflammation
  2. Stabilisation
  3. Strength through full range of movement
  4. Functional Movement

Early diagnosis and management are crucial to the success of conservative management and avoid needing surgery. Furthermore, left untreated the stress fracture can progress to slipping of the vertebrae (spondylolysthesis) usually associated with increased pain and onset of neurological symptoms.

Treatment Through Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy has several goals including promoting healing, reducing pain, avoiding aggravation, optimising physical function and global strengthening to restore normal movement patterns. To see how we can help you with your back pain  BOOK ONLINE TODAY

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