A “spondylolysis” is a broken back bone in the back.
There are five vertebral bones in the
lumbar (low back) spine. Each of
these bones has front and back sections. The back, or posterior part, is
designed to prevent excessive movement when bending.
When there is a “spondylolysis,” the back part of the vertebral bone is
broken and there may be instability or weakness of the spine. One in 15
adults has a spondylolysis. It is most common at L5-S1, the lowest disc
level in the back. It may be congenital (a birth defect) or can result
from an injury. Even a minor injury, such as lifting at work, can cause
If a spondylolysis is suspected, your doctor will check your back with
an X-ray and an MRI to make sure of the diagnosis. For some, this problem
can be treated with medication, exercise, and bracing. Chiropractic and
acupuncture may be helpful. Even though the fracture rarely heals without
an operation, non-surgical treatment eliminates pain in about two-thirds
of patients. When the pain is intolerable, and does not respond to
treatment, a fusion may be needed to fix the fracture and the instability.
Back fusion surgery can now be done using
minimally invasive approaches.
Up to ninety percent of patients who have fusion surgery for this problem
will recover, and will be able to return to work.