Where is a pinched nerve in the lower back?
A pinched nerve in the lower back often occurs in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine, which consists of five vertebrae that are cushioned by discs and connected by facet joints. A lumbar pinched nerve can develop when the spinal cord or a nerve root is compressed by nearby tissue, often caused by age-related degeneration or injury.
Because stress on a nerve disrupts sensory and motor signals to other areas of the body, symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness and weakness can occur along the nerve’s path. This is how a pinched nerve in the lower back can cause problems in the hips, buttocks and legs. The following information can help you better understand the causes and get the treatment you need if this condition is interfering with your life.
Why do pinched nerves develop in the lumbar spine?
Nerve compression is common in the lumbar region of the spine because it bears so much of the upper body’s weight while staying flexible enough to bend and twist. Over time this pressure amounts to significant wear and tear, making the parts like the joints and discs prone to injury and degenerative changes. Since the spine is so tightly constructed even a slight displacement of anatomy can lead to a pinched nerve. Specific lower spine conditions that can cause this include:
- Bulging and herniated discs
- Spinal arthritis
- Bone spurs
When a nerve is pinched, the flow of essential nutrients to the nerve is inhibited or completely blocked. As a result, the nerve membrane can gradually lose its ability to properly relay electrical impulses, leading to permanent nerve damage. This is why it is so important to seek proper diagnosis and treatment if you are suffering from symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back.
Prior to prescribing a course of treatment, a physician might order a series of tests, such as an electromyography or nerve conduction study. In most cases, a patient will be advised to get plenty of rest and avoid activities that intensify symptoms. Common pinched nerve treatment options include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, massage, hot or cold compression therapy, stretching and exercise. Epidural steroid injections and physical therapy may be recommended if symptoms do not improve with initial methods.
If conservative treatments are exhausted without improving symptoms after a period of time, surgery can become an option. The goal of surgery is typically to address the cause of the symptoms by removing the tissue that is putting pressure on the nerve root. Traditionally this has required a highly invasive open spine procedure involving a large incision and overnight hospitalization, but there are alternatives.
Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine surgery, performed in our state-of-the-art outpatient centers, offers our patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery period compared to traditional open back procedures.^
To learn more, contact our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.