Spondylolysis refers to the gradual degeneration of the spinal structures because of natural age-related wear and tear. The spine is a complex organ consisting of numerous components and structures, including vertebrae, intervertebral discs, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerve roots, and the spinal cord. The spinal discs generally act as shock absorbers that minimize friction between adjacent vertebrae, allowing you to bend, stretch, and move comfortably.
Over time, the intervertebral discs lose water and stiffen, making the surrounding vertebrae grind against each other during regular movements. As your bones grind against each other, you may develop osteophytes and bone spurs that further weaken and damage the vertebrae and surrounding nerve roots. These age-related changes (and many others) can also compress the nerve roots, leading to symptoms of radiculopathy.
The specific symptoms of spondylolysis depend on several factors, such as which spinal structures are damaged, the extent of damage, the location of damage (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar), and whether there’s any nerve compression.