The L3 vertebra, or third lumbar vertebra, is one of the most common sites for the occurrence of a herniated disc and other spinal conditions that can cause chronic lower back pain. The reason for this is the nature of the lumbar spine itself – it supports most of the weight of the upper body and is flexible enough to allow for bending, twisting and other movement. The load-bearing function and flexibility exacerbate the normal wear and tear in the spine we experience as we age.
Spinal conditions affecting the L3
Although muscle strain and ligament sprain are the two most common causes of back pain, the lower back is particularly vulnerable to spinal conditions that can lead to painful and debilitating nerve root compression. Spinal conditions that can cause nerve compression at the L3 level of the lumbar vertebrae include herniated discs, bulging discs, osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. Symptoms can include localized pain or pain that travels to the inner thigh or the middle of the leg. Tingling, numbness and muscle weakness might also be experienced.
Several nerves originate or are associated with the L3 level, including:
- Femoral – innervates muscles that help the leg bend and straighten
- Genitofemoral – innervates muscles associated with the reproductive organs
- Lateral cutaneous of the thigh – innervates the epidermis in the mid- to upper-leg regions
- Obturator – innervates muscles in the pelvis and hip
- Quadratus lumborum – innervates a muscle that connects the pelvis to the spine
Treatment for L3 Conditions
Most symptoms associated with conditions affecting the L3 vertebra can be managed through the use of pain medication, physical therapy or a combination of other conservative treatments. However, when chronic lower back pain persists, surgery might become an option. Rather than settle for traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute for a review of your MRI or CT scan to determine whether you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.