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Condition/Disorder Synonyms

  • Cervical spondylolysis

ICD-9-CM Code

  • 738.4 Acquired spondylolisthesis

ICD-10-CM Code

  • M43.00 Spondylolysis, site unspecified

Preferred Practice Pattern1

Key Features


  • Stress fracture of the pedicles on the vertebra below

  • Tightness or pain in the neck region

  • Often no symptoms

  • Weakness in the pars

Essentials of Diagnosis

  • Diagnosis made by X-ray

  • Can be acquired or congenital

  • Neck pain

General Considerations

  • Instability

  • Avoid extension positions that increase symptoms

  • Thin vertebral bone: pars


  • Teenagers with high risk activities are more at risk

  • Runs in families

Clinical Findings

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain in cervical spine, shoulder, arm, upper extremity

  • Stiffness along spine

  • Headaches

  • Pain in cervical spine worsens with extension

Functional Implications

  • Difficulty sustaining standing postures secondary to neck and arm pain

  • Inability to sleep flat on the back without a pillow

  • Difficulty with movements (reaching overhead) secondary to pain

  • Limit sports participation

Possible Contributing Causes

  • Forceful extension from hit under the chin (sports)

  • Congenital

  • Car accident, hit from rear

  • Hyperextension of the cervical spine

  • Increased cervical lordosis posture

Differential Diagnosis

  • Peripheral nerve impairment

  • Spinal tumor

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Paraspinal spasms

  • Degenerative disk disease

  • Stenosis

Means of Confirmation or Diagnosis


  • MRI helps to visualize compressed or inflamed nerve root in diagnosis

  • X-ray/plain-film radiograph to see vertebra position

  • CT scan to show herniation compressing the spinal canal/nerves

  • Electrodiagnostic/nerve conduction testing can help to determine a specific impaired nerve function

Findings and Interpretation

  • Stress fracture of the pars


  • For imaging

  • For surgical consult if myelopathy is suspected

    • Fusion

    • Decompression

    • Laminectomy

    • Hemilaminectomy

  • For corticosteroid injection, anti-inflammatory medication

  • For halo vest traction device, cervical bracing


  • Restricted mobility of the upper cervical spine

  • Hypermobility

  • Weakness noted of neck musculature


  • Rest

  • Bracing

  • Address Pain

    • Electrical stimulation

    • Heat/ice

  • Address hypertonicity

    • Soft-tissue massage

    • Heat

  • Address muscle weakness

    • Stability exercises

Functional Goals

  • Patient will be able to

    • Sit with neutral cervical spine posture for greater than 30 minutes with 0 out of 10 pain rating

    • Stand at work station and perform computer work for 45 minutes with 0 out of 10 pain rating

    • Rotate cervical spine 75 degrees so as to look over the shoulder ...

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