Understanding the L1 – L5 nerve roots

The lumbar (lower) nerve roots, known medically as the L1 – L5 nerve roots, refer to the point where nerves exit the spinal cord and branch throughout the lower back and the rest of the lower body.
These nerve pathways send signals between the lower torso, legs and feet. However, these nerve roots are particularly susceptible to compression due to the flexibility and weight burden placed on the lower back.

Spine conditions that affect the L1 – L5 nerve roots

Problems in the lower back are common because of the nature of the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is responsible for supporting most of our body weight and allowing for flexibility and movement in the lower back and torso.

This wide range of function and motion commonly leads to the compression of the L1 – L5 nerve roots, combined with natural age-related changes to spinal anatomy. Over time, the discs can break down and joints can become inflamed. These conditions are all common causes of nerve root compression and related symptoms.

The most common lumbar conditions that can cause compression of any of the L1 – L5 nerve roots include:

  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Degenerative scoliosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Bone spurs

Each of these conditions causes the pathways for nerve roots to narrow and lead to nerve compression.

Symptoms of nerve compression in the L1 – L5 nerve roots

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of nerve root compression so you can be proactive about your treatment. The common symptoms of compressed lumbar nerve roots include:

  • Chronic lower back pain at the site of the compression
  • Pain that radiates along a nerve
  • Muscle weakness in the thighs, knees and calves
  • Numbness and tingling in the legs, feet and toes
  • Other forms of sciatica
  • Incontinence or loss of bladder control in emergency cases, which requires immediate medical treatment

Treatment options

Management of most of these symptoms can usually be handled conservatively with a combination of doctor-recommended treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications, exercise, strength-training and similar options.

However, in some instances, the symptoms do not respond to conservative treatment and lower back surgery becomes an option. If this is your situation, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Our outpatient procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain and we are here to help guide you on your journey to find lasting relief.

Our caring and dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.