Most people have five vertebrae in their lumbar (lower back) region, which are named L1 to L5. However, some people possess an additional lumbar vertebra located below the L5. This extra vertebra, known as the L6, is called a transitional vertebra. About 10 percent of adults have some form of spinal abnormality caused by genetics, and a sixth lumbar vertebra is among the most common of these abnormalities.
More about the L6
More often than not, the existence of an L6 does not contribute directly to troublesome spinal conditions. In fact, this vertebra is subject to the same potentially debilitating conditions most people experience at the L5 level. Another difference is the way physicians refer to conditions associated with this transitional vertebra. Rather than speak of it in terms of the L5 to L6 level, it is generally referred to as the L6 to S1 level – denoting an association with the sacral region just below the lumbar vertebrae.
Spinal conditions affecting the L6-S1
Occasionally, the L6 vertebra can become “sacralized,” or attached to the sacrum by a rudimentary joint that creates additional motion – and therefore a greater potential for motion-related stress that can lead to lower back pain. Other conditions that affect this vertebra include a herniated disc, a bulging disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis – all of which can occur at any level of the spine.
Treatment for L6 conditions
Physicians who discover the presence of a sixth lumbar vertebra through the use of an MRI, X-ray or CT scan are likely to prescribe the same type of conservative treatments for chronic pain management as they would for someone without an L6. These methods of treatment include pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification and more. Occasionally, conservative treatment proves ineffective and a physician might suggest surgery as an option. Rather than settle for traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advanced techniques our surgeons utilize that lead to shorter recuperation periods when compared to traditional open spine operations. Our minimally invasive procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, and we have helped tens of thousands of patients find relief from back pain.