Your spine is an intricate and complex structure, and all it takes is one area to crack or shift in order for the whole system to be thrown into chaos. One such area that can be affected is the pars interarticularis. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what can happen when the pars interarticularis doesn’t develop correctly or fractures as a result of acute trauma.
What Is A Pars Defect?
A pars defect is a condition that involves a problem with your pars interarticularis. One the backside of every vertebra are knobs that project downwards where they form a joint with the vertebra below it. They connect with knobs pointing upwards from the vertebra below it. This connection is formed by a small bony bridge known as the pars interarticularis, and there is one on each side of the vertebrae.
A pars defect occurs when, due to a genetic development issue or trauma to the area, a crack develops on the pars interarticularis. Unlike a lot of spinal conditions that tend to skew towards an older demographic, a pars defect tends to be more common in younger, active teens and children whose spine are still developing. The pars interarticularis is the weakest part of the vertebra, and extra strain or trauma during childhood can lead to a crack in the area.
Symptoms associated with a pars defect include:
- Localized pain
- Inhibited range of motion
- Leg weakness
Treating A Pars Defect
One of the good things about a pars defect is that because the area is small, it does tend to heal well when the area is given enough rest and protection. In fact, most patients with a pars defect do not need surgery and can experience a full recovery with the assistance of a few conservative measures. Anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers are often recommended to quell discomfort, and then the patient is asked to avoid certain activities or strenuous posture positions while healing runs its course.
With that said, rest alone isn’t what’s going to drive home full recovery. That will come through weeks of physical therapy. Most patients go through at least six weeks of physical therapy that is designed to strengthen nearby structures or supportive systems that can take pressure off the spine, like a person’s core. Full recovery with the assistance of activity limitation and physical therapy can take up to six months, but the majority of patients feel completely back to normal after progressing through this line of treatment.
In rare instances, surgery may be required for your pars defect. During the procedure, the surgeon works to stabilize the fractured portion of vertebra with surgical hardware like a wire, screws or a rod in order to secure the bone in a specific position. This ensures the bone doesn’t shift, which allows healing to runs its course as expected. Sometimes a bone graft is also inserted to expedite the bone repair process. Once surgery is complete, you’ll follow a similar course of treatment as those who didn’t need surgery for their condition, in that you’ll likely be prescribed rest, activity modifications, medications and weeks of physical therapy. Both conservative and operative treatments following this course have high rates of success.
So if your active child is complaining of back pain or discomfort, consider allowing a spine specialist to take a look to see if there is an issue with their pars interarticularis. For more information, or to set up an appointment, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.