Five is an unlucky number for many people with spondylolysis (spon-dee-low-LYE-sis), because this condition—a weakness or stress fracture of a spinal bone—is most often found near the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back. It may, however, occur in other lumbar vertebrae, as well as in the chest area.
Spondylolysis is often caused by overuse, especially in such sports as weightlifting, football and gymnastics that typically stress the lower spine. Or, a person can be genetically predisposed to developing spondylolysis, having been born with thinner-than-average vertebral bone more prone to fracture.
Spondylolysis can cause considerable discomfort, although many people show x-ray evidence of the condition but feel no pain. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, many conservative measures can be employed to help you heal. If the condition is related to sports, for example, you need to take a hiatus from participation. In general, rest can be useful, but not so much that your back muscles become weak.
Other treatments include
- learning and utilizing proper posture and spinal alignment
- walking, sitting and lifting in ways that minimize lower back strain
- temporarily wearing a back brace
- taking medication as necessary to relieve inflammation and pain (prescription or over-the-counter, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
When these strategies are not enough, other options such as steroid injections or surgery are available, as well. Strengthening and controlling your back muscles and abdominal muscles often alleviates discomfort from spondylolysis. Our highly educated Physical Therapists can suggest style, technique or equipment changes to improve your performance and prevent future problems. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, see The Jackson Clinics about a physical therapy program that can help you heal and resume an active life.