Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Spondylolysis Recovery Time: Avoiding the Knife

POSTED ON IN Back/lumbar Fracture Non-Union Latest News Regenexx-SD Sports Injury BY Chris Centeno


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.

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.

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.



    Mary powers-boss says

    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


    Chris Centeno says

    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.


    Chris Centeno says

    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


    Mary E Smith says

    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.


    Chris Centeno says

    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:


    Peg says

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


    Chris Centeno says

    Please see: and


    Add comment

    Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.

    About the Author

    Chris Centeno

    Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…

    View Profile

    Search Blog