Spondylolysis/Pars Defect

 

A pars defect or spondylolysis is a stress fracture of the bones of the lower spine. These fractures typically occur due to overuse. They can be on one or both sides of the vertebrae. It is a common cause of low back pain in children and adolescents. The most common cause of low back pain is muscular, secondary to overuse or deconditioning.


   

What causes a pars defect/spondylolysis?
Pars defects are caused by overuse of the low back, mainly from sports that involve repetitive back bend-like motions.  Examples include: gymnastics, football, diving, etc.  Sometimes children are born with a very thin pars area which puts them at increased risk for this injury. 

What are the symptoms of pars defect/spondylolysis?
Initially children may not have any symptoms.  In teens, the main symptom is low back pain that worsens with activity and improves with avoiding the sport/activity that causes repeated back bending.  Symptoms can progress to interfere with normal daily activities. 

How is it diagnosed?
A diagnosis is made with physical exam, x-rays, and occasionally a bone scan.  In some cases a CT scan is needed for further assessment and planning.  

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