The intervertebral discs located in the lumbar (lower) spine, known as the L1-5 discs, are particularly vulnerable because the lower back carries most of the body’s weight. The lower back also bears the brunt of everyday pressures like walking, lifting, twisting and stretching. According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans spend $50 billion a year to combat lower back pain. It is the most common cause of disability on the job.
The lumbar spine typically consists of five large vertebrae, abbreviated as L1-L5. Some people have only four lumbar vertebrae, while others have six. The stacked vertebrae are separated by spongy “shock absorbers” known as discs. When the L1-5 discs are damaged or begin to break down with age, they can produce pain or discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, legs, feet and toes. A common cause of lower back pain is a herniated disc – a tear in the fibrous outer wall of a disc that allows disc matter to leak, leading to spinal nerve root or spinal cord impingement or irritation.
In addition to a lumbar herniated disc, the L1-5 discs can be affected by the following spinal conditions:
- Bulging disc – a protrusion of disc material into the spinal canal
- Degenerative disc disease – a breakdown of disc material that comes with age
- Sciatica – an impingement of the sciatic nerve
- Spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal
- Foraminal stenosis – a narrowing of the space where nerve roots exit the spinal column
- Osteoporosis – a thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time
- Osteoarthritis – degradation of joints over time
- Spondylolisthesis – slippage of a vertebra
- Spinal irregularities or injury – compression fractures, congenital conditions, etc.
The symptoms of most spinal conditions associated the L1-5 discs can be managed non-surgically. A course of conservative treatment might include exercise, physical therapy, pain medications, rest or massage. Sometimes, chronic lower back pain persists despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, and a physician might suggest surgery as an option. Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional disc surgery. Contact LSI to learn how our advanced, outpatient procedures can help you find relief from neck and back pain, and to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan.