Lumbar nerve roots

Lumbar (lower back) nerve roots rest in pairs between the five vertebrae of the lumbar spine (L1-L5 vertebrae) in the lower back. These lumbar nerve roots — and all nerve roots near the spine — are responsible for transferring information between the brain and other areas of the body, such as the arms, legs, hands and feet.

Because the lumbar spine is more susceptible to strain and damage than any other area of the spine, compression of the lumbar nerve roots is more common as well. It is this nerve compression that can lead to a number of potential symptoms, including common lower back pain.

Symptoms of lumbar nerve root compression

The lumbar nerve roots can become compressed when a spine condition develops in the lower back — typically a degenerative spine condition that develops naturally over time.

The lumbar spine is unique because it needs to be flexible, pivoting and allowing for movement while supporting most of the body’s weight. This combination of flexing and stress makes the lumbar spine far more prone to deterioration than any other area of the spine. As a result, the discs between the vertebrae can wear down and move out of alignment, leading to a series of spine conditions that can compress one of the L1-L5 nerve roots.

Common symptoms of compression of the lumbar nerve roots may include:

  • Chronic, local back pain at the site of the compression
  • Radiating pain traveling along a nerve
  • Unexplained muscle weakness
  • Numbness and tingling extending to the toes
  • Sciatica
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control, in emergency cases

Treatments for lumbar nerve root compression

Symptoms of these conditions can usually be managed with the help of a physician, through a combination of low-impact exercises, stretching, anti-inflammatory medication and heat therapy. Your doctor may also recommend other forms of conservative treatment depending on your condition and pain level.

In the event that these conservative treatments are ineffective at providing pain relief, surgery may be considered. If this is your situation, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery — an alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery. We can provide a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.