A spondylolisthesis is a stress fracture (pars defect) and subsequent slippage 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. This typically develops over time, not suddenly. It is a common cause of back pain in teen athletes.

What causes a pars defect/spondylolysis/spondylolisthesis?
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?

  • Low back pain-may feel like muscle strain
  • Pain that increases with activity and decreases at rest
  • Pain that increases when bending backward, “superman move”
  • Pain that goes down the legs
  • Bowel and bladder symptoms
  • Tight hamstrings and quad tightness

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

More Information

Request an Appointment