Common in athletes, stress fractures affecting the spine can also be the result of overuse that doesn’t involve any type of sports-related activity. Usually occurring in the lower back, spinal stress fractures (spondylolysis) are tiny cracks that develop when too much pressure is placed on some part of the spine. Though most stress fractures can be treated without spine surgery, Los Angeles physicians recommend learning more about these injuries to determine the most effective treatment.
Why Stress Fractures Occur
Activities such as contact sports or gymnastics that require a lot of movement in the lower back area increase the risk of sustaining a spinal fracture. Due to repetitive motions and over-extension, muscles supporting the backbone can become weak, allowing the spine to absorb more of the impact from movements. Genetics may play a role because some people are born with thinner vertebrae.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress Fractures
Some people may experience general weakness and pain throughout the lower back or no pain at all. X-rays confirm the location of the fracture, and CT and MRI scans may be done to determine if there is any related soft tissue damage. Muscle spasms can occur if the fracture causes a vertebra to slip out of place. Radiating pain may be felt in the buttocks, thighs, or legs if the sciatic nerve is affected.
Treating Spinal Stress Fractures
Bracing is often recommended for about 3 to 4 months to allow the spine to heal in the affected area. Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce discomfort and swelling. Some patients benefit from:
- Hamstring stretches
- Physical therapy
- Abdominal exercises
Surgery for Stress Fractures
If conservative, or non-surgical, treatments fail to provide relief, surgery may be necessary. The spinal fusion surgery Los Angeles surgeons specialize in is sometimes suggested if the fracture has caused the spine to become unstable.
Minimize your risk of sustaining a stress fracture by getting regular exercise to keep muscles that support and protect your spine strong. Eating foods rich in essential nutrients is equally important. Adequate calcium intake, in particular, helps prevent osteoporosis, a common form of arthritis that weakens the spine and its joints.
To learn more about stress fractures and other injuries to the spine, reach out to Dr. Bae at The Spine Institute. Dr. Bae and his team of expert surgeons can diagnose the source of your pain and find an effective solution for helping you live a pain-free life. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.