Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis Treatment

Most children with spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis do not need surgery.

At Seattle Children's, we offer exercise programs (physical therapy) to strengthen your child's muscles in the back and belly (abdomen). This helps support the backbone and can help prevent more back pain. We may also ask your child to temporarily stop doing the activity that is causing the injury.

These steps may be all your child needs to relieve symptoms and heal.

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis Treatment Options

For some children, back braces can take the pressure off the lower back and relieve the pain so they can return to sports and school.

The braces flatten out the normal curve (lordosis) of the lower spine. Your child will wear the brace as they move about during the day. Usually, children wear a brace for two to three months.

As the symptoms of pain decrease, your child can slowly decrease the amount of time they wear the brace. Read about braces and our other orthotics and prosthetics services.

Surgery for Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

If your child's pain continues after rest and bracing, they might need surgery to fix the fracture or stop the slipping. At Seattle Children's, we offer two operations to treat these conditions. We will discuss each option with you and your child to decide which is likely to work best.

In one operation, the doctor repairs the bones by placing a metal implant across the fracture and using a bone graft to help healing.

In the other operation, doctors join two or more bones together (fusion) to make your child's back more stable. To do this, doctors place screws into the bones of your child's lower spine and connects them with a bar to hold the spine still. Next, they place a bone graft in the area to help the bones grow together.