The five vertebrae that comprise the lumbar spine, known as the L1-L5, are the strongest and largest in the back. This stands to reason because the lower back supports most of the body weight and also provides the ability to bend, pivot and extend. Flexible facet joints and soft intervertebral discs exist to help the lumbar spine remain stable, but agile. This spinal segment is particularly prone to deterioration, which can often cause lower back pain and other symptoms throughout the bottom half of the body.
When everything is working correctly, the S-shaped spine absorbs shock and allows us to pivot on an axis, bend, extend and walk upright. And, it accomplishes all this under the extreme stress of supporting our body weight. Like hinges, synovial facet joints interlock the vertebrae, allowing for mobility while keeping the spine connected. Soft intervertebral discs cushion the spine and keep the vertebrae from grinding together.
However, a frustrating side effect of aging is that our spine is more susceptible to damage. Sometimes, conditions like a bulging disc or facet disease can go undetected and not present symptoms because they haven’t resulted in nerve compression. However, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and other conditions can all creep up over time and leave an individual in pain if a nerve is impinged, pinched or irritated.
Some symptoms of nerve compression in the L1-L5 lumbar spine include:
- Local, chronic pain
- Sciatic pain or other traveling pain
- Muscle weakness in the lower half of the back
- Numbness and tingling in the legs, feet and toes
- Pins-and-needles sensations
- And more
These symptoms typically do not get worse and can be easily managed with the help of a qualified medical professional. Physical therapy, painkillers and heat packs all can be effective in treating lower back problems. If a patient’s symptoms are extreme and debilitating, he or she may consider spine surgery. Contact the team of surgeons at Laser Spine Institute to learn how minimally invasive spine surgery may be able to provide you with the relief you require.
To learn more about the L1-L5 vertebrae and lumbar disc surgery – and to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan – contact Laser Spine Institute today.