Spondylolysis is a stress fracture. It occurs in a part of the vertebrae (spinal bone). The pars interarticularis is a portion of the bone between the facets. There is a right and left section.This condition occurs in the lower back. About 90% of the time, it is in the fifth lumbar vertebra. It can fracture on one or both sides (bilateral). Left untreated, it can lead to spondylolisthesis. This is a more serious condition. The vertebra slips forward on the one below it. Both conditions can cause back pain.This fracture is the most common cause of back pain in adolescent athletes.
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Spondylolysis can be caused by:
  • Congenital defect in the spine (usually appears a few years after birth)
  • Acute trauma to the back
  • Degenerative conditions of the spine

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the chance of spondylolysis include:
  • Genetics
  • Playing sports, such as gymnastics, football, diving, wrestling, or weightlifting
  • Improper athletic or exercise technique
  • Adolescent growth spurt
  • Chronic overextension (bending backwards) with or without side bending of the back (common in certain sports and activities)
  • Hamstring tightness or muscle imbalance
  • Cerebral palsy (less common)


Many people have no symptoms at all. In those that have them, symptoms may include:
  • Pain across the lower back
  • Spasms in the back and hamstring muscles
  • Pain radiating down the leg


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Imaging tests to find the fracture and look for other problems in the soft tissue may include:

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