Understanding a compressed nerve in the lumbar region of the spine

A compressed nerve in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine often will produce the set of symptoms known as sciatica. That’s because if a condition like a bone spur or herniated disc makes contact with a nerve root in the lower back, it’s very likely to be the largest and longest nerve in the body — the sciatic nerve. This nerve begins at the top of the five lumbar vertebrae and runs downward to stimulate most of the lower body. The aging process takes a toll on the joints and discs that help support the weight of the upper body and allow a wide range of body movement. The sciatic nerve is particularly vulnerable to compression among people in their 30s and older because the lower back is subjected to a great deal of wear and tear over the years. As those components break down, spinal stability becomes jeopardized and nerve compression occurs.

Symptoms of a compressed nerve in the lumbar region

Sciatic nerve compression can produce a wide range of symptoms and they can occur in parts of the body that do not even seem related to the spine. These include shooting or radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness. The parts of the body that might be affected include the:

  • Lower back
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Feet
  • Toes

Interestingly, sciatica is almost always experienced only on one side of the body or the other, because the underlying causes usually compress nerve roots only on the left or the right side of the back. For example, a herniated disc might extrude its gel-like center through a tear in the outer wall, and that material is contained enough to affect only one nearby nerve root. It might only make contact with that nerve root during certain movements, or when the individual sits or lies down. Sciatica takes many forms, which is why it can be difficult to diagnose at times. Range of motion tests, X-rays or other medical imaging tests and a review of you and your family’s medical history should provide the information needed for your physician to diagnose your sciatica.

Treatment for a compressed lumbar nerve

Most patients find relief from the symptoms of a compressed nerve in the lumbar region through a range of conservative treatment methods, such as medication, physical therapy, rest, etc. However, if those methods prove inadequate after several weeks or months, a physician or spine specialist might recommend surgery. If you are advised to begin researching your surgical options, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures that are proven to treat sciatica and compressed nerves without the highly invasive nature and lengthy recoveries of traditional open spine surgery.