Performance and Competitive Dancers are at Risk of Sustaining Spinal Spondylolysis

Performance and competitive dancers create quite an impression as they twist, turn and roll their body with a high degree of flexibility; often contortortioning themselves into positions unimaginable to social dancers. Yet with every complicated dance move executed, they are at risk of injuring themselves no matter how limber or supple their body may be.

The injury topic to be discussed here is not the kind that happens as a result of mishaps; but more on the type that is sustained when the musculoskeletal system is subjected to long, gruelling hours of practice in order to achieve fluidity and precision of movements. .

Musculoskeletal system refers to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spine and such other parts that allow the body to move in different ways, whilst providing support and stability. Such parts can be sprained, ripped, torn, distressed, and fractured if not given ample time to recover and repair after a long period of continuous usage.


Now there is one particular musculoskeletal disorder that all types of dancers, must have complete awareness of, and it is called “spondylolysis.” Parents of young dance performers should also know about this disorder, especially if their performing child is not yet past the growing stage.

What is Spondylolysis and Why Does it Happen?

Back pain experienced by dancers at the lower part of their body is often regarded as a normal symptom of fatigue and physical stress. However, recurring lower back pain should not be ignored because that is a symptom of a stress fracture in the lower or lumbar spine, clinically known as spondylolysis

Normally, the spine curves from the neck down to the lower back area in a way that allows the body to distribute stress evenly with every movement. If a dancer jumps or moves with faulty core control, he or she tends to land with a bad posture known as “sway back,” or what doctors call “lordosis.” That is when the back makes a leaning movement with the spine curving too far inward.

When lordosis of the spine occurs frequently, such repetitive condition creates a weak point in the bone structure. The bone tissues in the distressed area tend to break at a rate faster than the time it takes for cells to regenerate, causing spinal stress fracture. Lingering back pain now comes from the stress fracture diagnosed by spine surgeons as spondylolysis. At this stage, the stress fracture can still be healed through proper rest and by way of conservative treatment and therapy.

If not medically addressed immediately, the stress fracture could worsen in a way that will cause a vertebra to slip, or shift out of its normal placement, to cause greater pain with every movement. The musculoskeletal disorder will no longer be diagnosed as spondylolysis, but as spondylolisthesis, a spinal disorder that may require surgery if a dancer wants to be relieved of the pain.


Readers can obtain more information about spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, and their medical treatment from the Central Texas Spine Institute (CTSI) website.