It’s not as common as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc, but when it comes to the conditions that can cause lower back pain, spondylolysis deserves a place near the top of the list. Spondylolysis is a defect in a vertebra – a bone in the spinal column – at the point where it connects to the vertebra above it. The defect can lead to small stress fractures that allow a vertebra to move out of position and press against, or compress the spinal cord. This condition is called spondylolisthesis, or slipped disc. A slipped disc can cause several symptoms, with lower back pain being the most common. The good news is that many people with spondylolysis remain asymptomatic – they have no symptoms and are usually unaware they even have the condition. When the spondylolysis does cause lower back pain, it usually spreads across the lower back and feels like a muscle strain, and is generally exacerbated by exercise or vigorous activities.The weakness at the root of spondylolysis occurs in the pars interarticularis, the thin piece of bone that connects the upper and lower segments of the facet joints, which link the vertebrae and allow the movement of the spine. The cause of the weakness in the vertebrae that characterizes spondylolysis is unknown. Genetics is believed to play a role, and repetitive trauma to the lower back may also be a causal factor. The condition is not rare, affecting an estimated three to seven percent of Americans, many of them younger than traditional spinal patients. In fact, spondylolysisis the primary cause of low back pain in people under 25 years of age.
Simple over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen can often relieve mild symptoms of spondylolysis. In moderate to severe cases that don’t respond to conservative treatments, spinal decompression surgery to remove the portion of the defective vertebra compressing the spinal nerve may be recommended. Typically, spinal fusion surgery is performed following the decompression procedure in order to stabilize the spine. Recently an advanced alternative to spinal fusion, the TOPS Posterior Arthroplasty procedure, has been proven to provide better clinical outcomes than fusion, while preserving the patient’s full range of back motion.
Back pain is one of the world’s most common and debilitating medical conditions. As pioneers of advanced surgical treatments for spinal disorders, we at Premia Spine encourage anyone suffering from back pain to learn about all the treatment options available today.