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Health Information For Parents
Spondylolysis (spon-duh-LOL-uh-sis or spon-duh-low-LIE-sis) is a fracture (crack or break) in a vertebra (bone in the spine). It can happen from repetitive stress or injuries to the spine. Some kids are born with spondylolysis.
Spondylolysis is a very common cause of lower back pain in kids, teens, and young adults. It usually heals quickly with rest and physical therapy. Surgery usually isn’t needed.
The spine (or backbone) has 33 bones called vertebrae (VER-tuh-bray). Nine vertebrae are fused together to form the tailbone, and the other 24 are in the back. The lumbar vertebrae are in the lower back (closest to the tailbone), and are where spondylolysis usually happens.
Spondylolysis is a fracture in the part of the vertebra called the pars (or pars interarticularis). Each vertebra has two pars, one on the left side and one on the right. A pars defect or stress fracture can happen on one or both sides of this bone.
Lower back pain is the most common symptom of spondylolysis. It usually gets worse during exercise or other physical activity, especially activities where someone leans back a lot. Spondylolysis also can cause buttock and leg pain, and tight hamstrings.
Sometimes, kids and teens with spondylolysis won’t have any obvious symptoms and don’t realize that they have the condition.
Young people are more at risk for spondylolysis because their bones are still growing.
Kids and teens who play sports and do activities that can strain the lower back or that involve a lot of leaning back — like football, weightlifting, gymnastics, volleyball, ballet, golf, and wrestling — are especially likely to develop it.
Health care providers will do a thorough exam. During the exam, they might push on the back or ask a patient to bend backward to hyperextend the spine. If these things cause back pain, it’s likely that there’s a fracture in the pars.
Other things, such as muscle pain, a pinched nerve, or herniated (bulging) disc, also can cause lower back pain. To rule those out — or to confirm a diagnosis of spondylolysis — health care providers will order tests such as:
Most cases of spondylolysis heal just fine when caught early and treated properly. If your child has spondylolysis, the health care provider probably will recommend:
Most kids and teens will feel better in 3 months. They should wait until they’re pain-free and have their full range of motion before playing contact sports or doing strenuous activities.
If it’s not allowed to heal properly, spondylolysis can lead to chronic (long-lasting) back pain and loss in flexibility. If this happens, surgery might be needed to fix the problem.
Sometimes, kids with spondylolysis develop a painful condition called spondylolisthesis (spon-duh-low-lis-THEE-sis). This happens when the front part of a vertebra slides away from the back part.
Spondylolysis is hard to prevent because it can happen all at once or over time. But young athletes can help lower their risk by:
The sports and activities that can cause spondylolysis often are very competitive and attract motivated, driven kids and teens. So it’s important to keep your child’s temperament in mind when dealing with spondylolysis and its recovery.
Besides their own wishes to return to what they love, kids and teens also might be under pressure to get back into the game from coaches, teammates — and even parents. But a safe return to play is very important. Kids should get the OK from their health care provider before they return to physically demanding activities and sports.
After spondylolysis, kids and teens need to keep up with the proper techniques and sports safety measures they learned in recovery. They should maintain their core strength and flexibility, and take breaks between sports seasons, games, and competitions.
Also, be sure that your kids know to immediately stop an activity that causes back pain. They should see their health care provider and not return to play until the pain goes away.
Spondylolisthesis happens when a bone in the back slips forward and out of place. In kids and teens, itâs a common cause of lower back pain.
A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that’s done to stabilize or straighten the bones in the back. It can help kids and teens with scoliosis.
Scoliosis makes a personâs spine curve from side to side. Large curves can cause health problems like pain or breathing trouble. Health care providers treat scoliosis with back braces or surgery when needed.
A lumbar spine MRI is a painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the bones, disks, and other structures in the lower back.
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It’s not always easy to tell if you have a stress fracture, and stress fractures can get worse quickly. This article explains how to prevent and treat them.
Gymnastics is a great sport and a fun way to get a muscular, toned body. But, it also presents a very real risk of injury. To keep things safe during practice and competition, follow these tips.
In wrestling, injuries are bound to happen sometimes. To keep things as safe as possible, follow these tips.
Football is a lot of fun, but since the name of the game is to hit somebody, injuries are common. To keep things as safe as possible, follow these tips.
Playing hard doesn’t have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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