Lumbar Stress Fracture


Low – mod

6 – 12 wks

Mechanical lower back pain

What is a lumbar stress fracture?

A stressy is when you get repetitive load through a bone and it says ‘OW!’. A key thing to know is that it’s more like a continuum rather than a quick ‘break’. This is a rough summary: bony bruising < stress response < complete pars fracture (where the bone is fully fractured). Another big word to understand is ‘sponylolithesis’ which is where the stress fracture has happened on both side and the vertebrae has moved a wee bit relative to the one above it. Sounds worse than it is! (Lots of people have spodylolithesis and no pain). So when someone says ‘stress fracture’ it’s worth diving into the detail and understanding exactly what they mean. Mostly these happen in young athletic populations and some sports are more likely to see them (dance, rowing, soccer, cricket).

Why does a lumbar stress fracture happen?

Overuse. There are some genetic factors but if a young athlete is loading their lower back repetitively under high load – they are more likely to get a lumbar stress fracture. Sports with lots of extension (backwards bending) are involved increase the likelihood. Fast bowlers in cricket, rowers and all those dancers with fabulous arabesques have more risk simply because the load on the lumbar spine is high.

What can you do about a lumbar stress fracture?
Lumbar Physiotherapy in Newcastle.

1. Image first. An MRI is the best type of investigation to get as it is the ‘gold standard’ for diagnosing stressys. A bone scan is also useful but because it involves radiation, an MRI is preferable. So if there’s any Q about diagnosis from the physio – get some pictures first.
2. Rest. Normally you will need a minimum of 6 wks off your sport/activity to allow the bone to heal. Sometimes it needs longer (up to 12 wks) depending on the person and the sport.
3. Strength. After 5-6 wks you can start to introduce gentle strength work. Some low impact cycling, hydrotherapy or pilates style strength can be helpful. Make sure its outside of pain! Progress strength under the close supervision of your physio.

How long will a lumbar stress fracture take?

Minimum 6-8 wks but sometimes up to 12-14 wks. Depends on how bad, how long, type of sport and type of person.


The test physios often use to help diagnose stress fracture is called a ‘stork’ which is where you stand on one leg and then bend backwards. It doesn’t mean you definitely have a Lumbar stress fracture but when it’s combined with other factors can be a helpful indicator.

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If pain persists, you may require the help of a professional physio. Contact Brightside Physio to make an appointment.


Brightside Physio
90 Elder St
Lambton (Newcastle)
NSW 2299

New location!
15 Lambton Rd
Broadmeadow (Newcastle)
NSW 2292



Find parking via De Vitre Street and walk down side alley to Elder Street entrance.



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Call us on (02) 4062 8862