Most people have five vertebrae in their lumbar (lower back) region, which are named L1-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 doctors refer to conditions associated with this transitional vertebra. Rather than speak of it in terms of the L5-L6 level, it is generally referred to as the L6-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 herniated disc, bulging disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis – all of which can occur at any level of the spine.
Treatment for L6 Conditions
Doctors 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 doctor might suggest surgery as an option. Rather than settle for traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to learn about advanced, endoscopic techniques that require no hospital stay and a relatively brief recuperation. Our minimally invasive procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, which means you can rediscover a life without pain in a shorter amount of time.