Fact: spondylolysis occurs in three to six percent of the population. If I can do math correctly, that’s approximately 204-408 million people walking around the world with this condition. So, if this many people have it, what exactly is it?
By definition, spondylolysis can be described as a defect or the degeneration of the posterior part of the spine known as the pars interarticularis. This is typically caused by a stress fracture from injury, trauma, or overtraining in a sport or activity. Therefore, young children who participate regularly in sports such as gymnastics, football, dance or any sport that is classified as flexing the spine forward, bending back or turned creating mechanical stress – they are more at risk of developing this structural disorder.
In a seemingly odd, but semi-common occurrence, spondylolysis can show up in adults with no prior history of injury or sports participation. Some adults are even known to show no symptoms for years, leaving no trace of the disorder until they are older and start experiencing other related conditions and their symptoms, such as spondylolisthesis, which we will get to next. Other risk factors for spondylolysis include hereditary components and obesity.
As painful as this back condition can be, it is not uncommon to have spondylolysis and no symptoms. And when spondylolysis is not treated in a timely fashion, mostly because people don’t know they have it, it can lead to spondylolisthesis – a condition where one vertebra slips forward onto another due to the degeneration of the bone or stress fracture putting pressure on the vertebra causing it to slip.
Both conditions have similar symptoms and may be hard to decipher between, so lets take a minute to look at each.
Symptoms of spondylolysis include tight hamstrings, and lower back pain. This condition can become a problem for a person when dealing with instability of the spine. Spondylolysis is associated with lumbar disc degeneration, due to the stress put on the nerve roots, which is the root of lower back and leg pain.