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Spondylolysis, also known as spinal arthritis, is commonly the result of aging, but can also be the result of sports activities that require repetitive flexing and extension of the lower back such as football, gymnastics, and ice skating.

The disease begins with the drying out and collapsing of the vertebral discs that act as shock absorbers in the spine. The thinning of the discs causes stress to the joints of the spine and the ligaments that hold the spine together. This allows the vertebrae to move out of alignment and rub together. Bone spurs may grow on the irritated areas. The bone growth and misalignment puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Symptoms of spondylolysis depend on the location and severity of the diseased area of the spine, and can include pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and loss of fine motor skills. Severe spondylolysis can cause myelopathy, a loss of coordination and a heavy feeling in the affected limbs.