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A defect or fracture in an area called the pars interarticularis of the spine results in a condition known as spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is often diagnosed in teenagers or young adults due to back pain that increases with activity. The fracture is felt to be a "stress" fracture due to mild but continued strain to this area of the spine. The spondylolysis may lead to slippage of one vertebra on the other (called spondylolisthesis).
Most teenagers present with back pain increased by sports (the condition is common in teens who participate in tennis or gymnastics). The pain is often relieved by rest.
Because the defect or fracture is in the bone a CT may in some cases be needed to confirm the diagnosis. A bone scan may also be done which shows areas of weakness and stress in the spine.
Many teenagers respond to brace treatment plus a three-month rest period followed by the resumption of normal activities. If the symptoms recur, surgery may be necessary. Minimally invasive surgery can be done with the patient returning to full activity in about three months' time.