Spondylolysis is a crack in the bony ring on the vertebrae, usually in the lumbar or low back spine. With spondylolyis, the bone that protects the spinal cord fractures as a result of a violent traumatic incident or excessive, repeated strain. The area affected is called the pars interarticularis, so doctors sometimes refer to this condition as a pars defect. Workers who repeatedly bend backwards, can get it, as well as someone who falls onto their back or suffers a heavy blow. Many individuals with spondylolysis will develop spondylolisthesis, which is the forward displacement of a vertebral bone over the vertebrae beneath it.
Doctors often begin by prescribing nonsurgical treatment for spondylolysis. This is because symptoms from these stress fractures often resolve with rest or bracing. In some cases, doctors simply monitor their patients’ condition to see if symptoms improve. An X-ray may be taken every few months to check how well the area is healing.
If the doctor feels that the problem is due to a recent fracture, one may be placed in a rigid back brace or cast for three to four months. Keeping the spine from moving can help ease pain and inflammation. It can also improve the chances the bones will grow back together. Most people who require a brace or cast overcome symptoms and are able to eventually get back to activities free of pain. This can happen even when follow-up tests show that the bones haven’t completely healed.
The doctor may ask that the worker rest his or her back by limiting activities. The purpose of this is to help decrease inflammation and calm muscle spasm. One may need to take some time away from work, especially if it requires repeated back bending. This gives the back a chance to heal. Most patients who follow these measures get better. Patients are rarely counseled to completely discontinue working, and only in severe cases or where there is other degeneration or damage.
Patients often work with a physical therapist. After evaluating the condition, a therapist can assign positions and exercises to ease the symptoms. The therapist may design an exercise program to improve the strength and control of the back and abdominal muscles. By understanding the job duties, the therapist can suggest style, technique, or equipment changes to improve work ergonomics and prevent future problems.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers with work-related or job duties caused spondylolysis. Yes, there are congenital and other factors, but we take the worker as we find him or her, and if the job contributes to the disability caused by spondylolysis, then its work-related in our book and we will fight to prove the case.