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Illness & Conditions - Definition

Spondylolysis

Spondylolysis

Spondylolysis is a defect or fracture on one or both of the wing-shaped parts of a vertebra, usually in the lower lumbar region.

Spondylolysis is usually detected sometime during childhood. It may occur for one or more reasons.

  • Some people are born missing part of, or with damage to, this piece of vertebra.
  • The wing-shaped parts of the vertebra may become damaged from strenuous physical activity, especially during the teen years. Certain types of athletes—particularly weight lifters, football players, gymnasts, and javelin throwers—are at increased risk for developing this condition. It usually starts as a stress fracture and it never completely heals.
  • Normal changes associated with aging can weaken this part of the vertebra, leading to fractures or deformities.

Most people can manage spondylolysis by resting from strenuous activity, doing stretching and strengthening exercises, and taking pain relief medicine, such as ibuprofen. Surgery is rarely needed, although it may be considered for people who do not respond to other treatment.

Last Revised: May 23, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD

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