Spondylolysis Recovery Time: Avoiding the Knife

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Spondylolysis is common in disturbingly young athletes who are born with weakened or disconnected areas of their spine. Sometimes this break in the spine bone heals, and sometimes it doesn’t. When the spot doesn’t mend, the patient usually undergoes a big surgery that can cause serious problems. So if your spondylolysis recovery time is taking too long, how can you ramp up your body’s ability to heal without major surgery? By getting an ultraprecise injection of your stem cells, just like the collegiate wrestler whose CT scans I’ve included above.

What Is Spondylolysis?

Some of us are born with extra backbones, some with holes in the spine, and some with weak areas in our spines. When this happens and a lot of force is placed on the weak area in sports, like gymnastics, football, wrestling, and others, the weak area can break. This condition is called spondylolysis.

The part of the spine that most commonly breaks is called the pars interarticularis (aka pars), which means in Latin, “the part between the articulations.” It’s named this because it’s the piece of bone between the joints in the back of the spine (facet joints). Many times, one side of the spine will be disconnected while the other has only weakened bone. When this happens, the weak side can break during exercise, causing chronic pain. Sometimes this fracture will heal on its own, but when it doesn’t, often the patient gets an invasive surgery.

What is spondylolysis recovery time? The fracture should heal, like any other, in about 6–12 weeks. If you still have pain after this period despite being in a back brace to stabilize the area, then the fracture is called a delayed union (meaning slow healing). If it’s still there at six months, it’s called a nonunion and is very unlikely to heal on its own. In this situation patients are often treated with surgery.

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Why Operating on a Pars Fracture Causing Spondylolysis Is a Bad Idea

Let’s face it, modern spine surgery is like a bull in the proverbial china shop of this delicate structure. Why? There is no way to install hardware to fuse the spine without destroying the critical muscles (multifidus) that stabilize it. Also, damage also occurs to the key muscle covering (thoracodorsal fascia) that helps provide additional spine stability. So even if all the surgeon is trying to do is to bolt together the fracture to give it a chance to heal, this still damages these structures.

What’s the best way to fix the fracture? Put away the carpentry tools and augment your body’s natural ability to heal. How is this possible? A very precise injection of your body’s stem cells.

Our Wrestler’s Spondylolysis Story

I’ve already blogged on much of the details of NH’s spondylolysis nightmare and his subsequent treatment without surgery; he learned the hard way about spondylolysis recovery time. This patient injured his back wrestling and had a spondylolysis break that wouldn’t heal, which forced him out of collegiate competition. He was faced with invasive surgery or trying a new technology. He chose the latter by using his stem cells carefully injected into the break with fluoroscopic guidance.

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Percutaneous Pars Defect Repair (Perc-PDR)

Our clinic has pioneered percutaneous pars defect repair (Perc-PDR). The procedure involves using high concentrations of the patient’s bone marrow stem cells precisely injected with demineralized bone matrix into the pars defect using a microtrocar. C-arm fluoroscopy is used to guide the injection.

Since the procedure avoids hardware and open surgery by using a microtrocar, which is about the size of a standard needle, it doesn’t damage the muscles or important fascia. Perc-PDR also focuses on using the innate healing potential of your body to close the fracture naturally. I personally performed the procedure on this collegiate wrestler in June of 2016.

The result? You can see above that three months later, the right-sided pars fracture (which is on the left of the image and inside the white-dashed circle) healed. The left-sided break shown is the side of his spine that was never connected. His pain promptly went away after the first month, and he skipped having a surgeon permanently muck up his stabilizing back muscles and fascia.

The upshot? We’ve healed many nonhealing fractures with precise stem cell injections. We’ve also published on some of these patients. Now we’re using an advanced form of the same technology to help young athletes heal their spondylolysis fractures without surgery. These kids get to avoid the serious long-term side effects of surgery while hastening their spondylolysis recovery time.

This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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23 thoughts on “Spondylolysis Recovery Time: Avoiding the Knife

  1. Mary powers-boss

    I want to know why prp injections are advised ,and when stem cell therapy is the preferred tx.
    I have arthritis and torn ACL of my knee and spondylo at L5 -S1

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      At Regenexx the decision to use one of our Platelet procedures, or our stem cell procedure is made on a case by case basis based on what needs to be accomplished in each unique case. Generally speaking, Platelet procedures are commonly used for soft tissue injuries, mild arthritis and spine conditions. Stem Cells are commonly used for injuries, more severe arthritis and other conditions which require the addition of stem cells, rather than boosting the the existing stem cells to work harder.

    2. Chris Centeno Post author

      Depends on the extent of the damage. PRP will not be as effective for severely degenerated joints, that’s where stem cells are used. As for ACL, depends on the extent of the damage to the ligament-complete is stem cells and partial is more PRP. As far as low back discs and spine, see https://regenexx.com/how-to-read-a-low-back-mri-report/

  2. Mary E Smith

    Can this stem cell procedure be performed on an adult? I’m a 38 yr old female with a bilateral pars defect. Does the age of the fracture matter? Mine is at least 6 months old.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Yes the procedure is performed on adults and a 6 month old fracture is not a problem. If you’d like to see if you’re a good Candidate please submit the Candidate form so we can take a look at your images and speak to you about your case. Please see: https://regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/back-surgery-alternative/

  3. Peg

    How effective is Regenexx on degenerative
    Spondylothesis l4-l5 with L5 nerve compression?

  4. Barry Lathan

    Hi , I’ve just finished reading an article put on a spine injury site in 2010 about a surgical procedure called bucks repair I’m now 43 and have been very active all my life with weight training, running, and now mostly playing squash until September 19th of last year which happens to be my birthday, I’d had slight back pain before going on holiday, I’d only been back two days before my back completely went. At first it would spasm which was horrendous and I was unable to get into bed, I also had numbness down my left leg so the doctor diagnosed me with sciatica, so ended up doing physio for 2 months. Eventually the doctor sent me for an X-ray which showed up the L5 S1 fracture and vertebrae had slipped forward by over 1cm, then I was sent for an MRI and only received results which just confirmed it last week after 5 months, I’ve been off work for 5 months and am due back next week, I’m a postal worker so it’s quite a physical job walking around 10 miles per day, I’m still in some pain but nowhere near what I was. My physio advised against surgery saying there’s only a 40% chance of success so I’m sort of in limbo, going back to work afraid of going back to square one, and not being able to play squash again. So now I’ve noticed this procedure regenexx and wonder if this could be an avenue worth exploring, can you tell me if you’ve heard of the 1st procedure and if either one sounds right for me. And if your procedure is available in the uk.

    Barry Lathan

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Barry,
      We understand your dilemma! We do Regenerative Interventional Orthopedics, so all of our treatments are injection based procedures using the patients own platelets and stem cells. The Buck procedure is one in which screws are inserted, and not something we would recommend if it could be avoided. We do have a Regenexx location in the UK, with 2 excellent Spine physicians, but the Percutaneous Pars Defect Repair (Perc-PDR) is only done in Colorado at this time. If you’d like to be seen by them to see if they can help in some way, here is their website with contact information: https://www.algocells.com/?utm_source=regenexxreferral&utm_medium=webreferral&utm_campaign=regenexxlocations and https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/spine/

  5. Hauwa Ahmed

    Hi, I was diagnosed with l3 pars reticularis fracture for 2months now, and was an accident for months, am on treatment but still having muscle pains and am 40 years old , please advise me

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Hauwa,
      If this is what you mean, we do treat this, but only at Regenexx HQ’s, in Broomfield, Colorado, USA. https://regenexx.com/blog/spondylolysis-recovery-time-avoiding-knife/

  6. Saurabh Tongia

    Hi sir ,
    I was diagnosed with a l5s1 problem 7-8 years back and used to get lower back jerk once in 4-5 months which used to heal by taking rest and medicine ,even had a X-ray done to that time which showed l5s1problem , from last 3 years I have started to play badminton daily and again this time I got a regular jerk ,by chance I again did a X-ray done which showed bilateral parx defect this time , I had even got done MRI also imm as said by doctor and it showed the same defect , remaining all things and spine structure and distance is normal , am based at India , can you tell me how can I get cured naturally or can have a stem cell injection done here itself , please guide me

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Saurabh,
      We treat pars defect, but only at the Centeno-Schultz Clinic in Colorado. Please let us know if you’d like to go through the Candidacy evaluation for treatment. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/spondylolysis-recovery-time-avoiding-knife/ and https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/spine/

  7. Dustin

    Is it possible that this can be performed at your Nashville location? I have pars fractures, I’m 33, no slippage at this time, I do have a bulging disc in the area but its on the left side and it’s mainly my right side that is giving me problems. I haven’t yet been able to find anyone that will just operate on the pars itself. I’m having a hip scope procedure on the right side in a attempted to fix the issue by fixing my hip impingement. But I know groin pain can be pars or hip, I had a epidural injections in my pars that just made the pain worst. Just wondering what you think, I’m not sure if the pars fracture was there before, I do no i have been doing some heavy lifting as a nurse and also in the weight room before this problem.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Dustin,
      This procedure is only done at the Centeno Schultz Clinic in Broomfield, Colorado. 303 429 6448. Please use the Find Out If You’re A Candidate form here: https://centenoschultz.com/

  8. B

    Hi. And what about the spondilyosis caused by the wear of the joints On the thoratic area?

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      Not sure what the question is?

  9. Dr. Shony

    Did this patient have a TLSO, bone stimulator or any other modalities during this 3 month period?

    Is this one treatment or several?

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      One treatment, TLSO for 2 months, no bone stim

  10. Shreevathchan

    I was diagnosed with stage 1 spondylolysis and mild disc herniation when I fell down during my soccer match,.. I’m 21 and weigh 77 with 5’10 height,…. Can a proper rehab without surgery would take me back to my sport

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      Normally it’s important to tighten down the ligaments that can keep the one vertebra slipping forward on another. This can be done with injections and without surgery. In the meantime, getting the core muscles stronger, including multifidus is usually a good idea.

  11. Julie Hudson

    my almost 13 year old gymnast daughter was diagnosed with chronic bilateral pars articularis in May 2019. She is still in pain after rest, physical therapy, and strengthening over year later. Is this a possible solution for her? What does the bone marrow stem cell extraction entail? Does insurance cover this procedure?

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      No insurance coverage. I would need to review her case to see if this is a possible treatment. The best way to set that up is to reach out to [email protected].

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