Degenerative lumbar spine

Degenerative lumbar spine problems originate in the lower back. The lumbar spine, or lower back, is used for many movements like twisting, bending, lifting and arching. It is easy to see how this area could degenerate, or break down, after years of motion.

Anatomy of the lumbar spine

Let’s look at the anatomy of the lumbar spine, because understanding the mechanics of your condition is the first step to relieving the pain of a degenerative lumbar spine disorder.

The lower back is made up of five vertebrae, referred to as L1 to L5. These are the largest vertebrae in the spine which support the most weight, because your lumbar region is where the two halves of your body come together.

The lumbar region also houses the sciatic nerve, which is the single largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttocks and into each leg to the bottom of the foot. Like other vertebrae in your spine, the lumbar vertebrae are separated by protective spinal discs, which help with padding, shock absorption and spinal flexibility.

When the lumbar spine degenerates

As we age, spinal discs begin to break down, which can lead to a degenerative lumbar spine condition. The joints between the vertebrae — also called the facet joints — also degenerate and lose their smooth cartilage covering. This degenerative spine condition is called osteoarthritis.

Weakened discs and worn facet joints can cause any of the following to occur:

  • Herniated disc — This occurs when a disc’s tough exterior rips and its inner fluid extrudes into the spinal canal.
  • Bulging disc — This is a disc that weakens and swells beyond its normal perimeter, which compresses the spinal canal.
  • Bone spurs — Bone spurs are extra growths of smooth bone on your vertebrae, and these growths can impinge on spinal nerves. This is often your body’s response to continual rubbing on arthritic facet joints.

All of the above conditions can involve nerve compression. For example, bone or disc material can press on spinal nerves, causing pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. These chronic symptoms can severely impact your quality of life.

Minimally invasive treatment options

If your physician has diagnosed you with a degenerative lumbar spine and nonsurgical treatments, such as medication and physical therapy, have done little to relieve your symptoms, the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute may be able to help.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, our decompression and stabilization procedures are safer and effective than traditional open neck and back surgery. Because of our minimally invasive approach, our patients can experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of infection and complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To find out if you are a candidate of our minimally invasive spine surgery contact Laser Spine Institute and ask for a no-cost MRI review* today.