A pars defect is a fracture between two joints within the portion of the vertebrae that has bony extensions that form the adjacent joint called the pars interarticularis. It’s sometimes referred to as spondylolysis, the term for a spinal fracture or defect that occurs in the part of the vertebra where the pars interarticularis is located. If the break is severe enough, it may cause the upper part of a vertebra to break away from the lower portion. Sometimes a spinal disc will slip in front of an adjacent one (spondylolisthesis) and press on nearby nerves.
A common cause of a fracture in an upper vertebra is some type of trauma, such as a hard fall or blow to the spine. It’s possible to have a pars defect without experiencing any pain until a disc moves out of place and pinches a nearby nerve.
In rare instances, a birth defect specific to the upper vertebra may cause a fracture to occur. A vertebra can also have certain abnormalities or structural defects that may lead to a break.
Underlying conditions may also increase susceptibility to fractures in the pars interarticularis part of a vertebra. Osteoporosis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, is the most common health condition that contributes to fractures like pars defects.
When pain occurs because of a pars defect, it’s usually in the form of lower back pain largely relegated to one side. Patients may have difficulty walking, display an abnormal gait, or have noticeable issues with posture. Radiating nerve pain (radiculopathy) may also be experienced if the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. Symptoms may also include:
A pars defect may occur at any location along the spine, although the most common location is within the lower back near a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine (sacrum bone). If a pars defect occurs in this location, it usually causes one disc to slip forward. Pars defects can be difficult to detect, especially if the fracture isn’t causing any significant pain. The only way to effectively treat a pars defect is by immobilizing the affected area with temporary bracing for 3 to 4 months. If such fractures go undetected, healing can be difficult and back pain may continue.
Unless there are severe neurological issues, recommended pain management remedies when disc slippage has occurred due to a pars defect will likely involve physical therapy, activity modification or restriction, pain medications, muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and chiropractic care. If these methods aren’t effective for patients in Santa Monica, spine surgery may be recommended to repair the fracture, remove all or part of a disc, or limit movement in the affected area with a fusion.
If you have a pars defect or another serious spinal condition, the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute can help. We specialize in a wide array of fusion and non-fusion procedures, including spinal stimulation and lumbar disc replacement. Santa Monica residents can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae to diagnose the source of their pain and come up with an effective plan for relief. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.