The intervertebral disc situated between the L5 and L4 vertebrae is extremely vulnerable to degenerative conditions associated with normal wear and tear as we age. The reason for this vulnerability is that the joint formed by the L5 and L4 vertebrae is involved in a wide range of stress-inducing bending, twisting and other movement. In addition, the lumbar region (lower back) bears most of the upper body’s weight. This combination of flexibility and weight-bearing places a great amount of stress on the L5 vertebra.
Among the nerves associated with this vertebra is the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. When the sciatic nerve is irritated or impinged at the L5 level, a patient can experience localized pain, as well as pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness that travels down the body to the front of the lower leg and foot. In addition, nerves that originate at the L5 level innervate muscles that allow us to wiggle our toes.
Spinal Conditions Affecting the L5
When the intervertebral disc between the L5 and L4 vertebrae begins to wear down, it loses water content and elasticity. This can trigger the generation of bone spurs brought on as a result of degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis, but the underlying cause is normal wear and tear. Should repetitive motion or extreme weight begin to place too much stress on this disc, the disc wall can weaken and bulge into the spinal canal, where it can come into contact with a nerve root or the spinal cord itself. A bulging disc between the lumbar vertebrae won’t necessarily cause back pain, but when it does, the symptoms can be debilitating and extremely disruptive.
Treatment for L5 Conditions
The course of treatment will depend on your physician’s diagnosis, but generally, pain medication, physical therapy and other conservative methods are effective at managing the symptoms associated with L5 conditions. If this doesn’t prove true for you, a doctor might recommend surgery as an option. If so, rather than settle for traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to learn about the most advanced back procedures available. The surgeons at LSI use gentle, endoscopic techniques to perform outpatient procedures that help patients rediscover a life without pain.