Spondylolysis is a defect or fracture of one
or both of the wing-shaped parts of a
vertebra. These "wings" help keep the vertebrae in
place. When a "wing" is absent, defective from birth, or damaged, a vertebra
can slide forward or backward over the bone below, sometimes pressing on the
spinal cord or a
nerve root. This slipping, called spondylolisthesis, usually happens at the base of the spine.
Symptoms of spondylolisthesis can include back pain and numbness or weakness in
one or both legs, sometimes leading to a loss of leg function.
Spondylolysis has various causes. A vertebra can be defective from
birth (congenital). It can also be broken by trauma or a stress fracture, or
broken down by infection or disease. Spondylolisthesis is most commonly seen in
children and adolescents involved in athletics.
Treatment for spondylolisthesis focuses on strengthening the
supportive abdominal and back muscles while improving body mechanics in daily
life. If severe pain and disability continue after physiotherapy, surgery is
sometimes done. Intensive rehabilitation is needed after surgery.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics