When teen or adolescent athletes complain of low back pain, the culprit could be a tiny crack or stress fracture in one of the vertebrae. This condition, called spondylolysis, generally improves with rest, rehabilitation and return to activity. Keep reading to learn more.
Causes & Triggers
This condition most commonly results from normal wear and tear associated with aging.
The degeneration process usually begins with the discs. As the body gets older, the spinal discs begin to dry out, lose their elasticity and collapse. The thinning of the discs places stress on the facet joints and the ligaments that hold the vertebrae together. These structures weaken, allowing the vertebrae to become overly mobile.
Causes of Pain
The vertebrae may begin to shift out of proper alignment and rub against each other. Bony growths called bone spurs may form on the irritated vertebrae. The vertebral shifting and the excess bone growth can reduce the space through which the nerve roots travel, and the nerve roots or the spinal cord can become painfully compressed.
- Repetitive bending and straightening
- Sports injuries (especially football, diving, gymnastics)
Signs & Symptoms
- At times, no obvious symptoms.
- Feeling of strained muscle
- Low back pain ranging from sharp to dull ache
- Pain aggravated by bending and straightening
Tips & Treatment
- Spondylolysis is also called a Pars stress fracture, because it occurs in the pars interarticularis portion of the lumbar spine where upper and lower joints come together.
- Treatment may involve rest from injury-causing sport or activity, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, hot or cold packs, stretching and strengthening exercises, and bracing or supportive devices.
- Surgical treatment, while not usually necessary, may be required in progressive instances.