Sacral spine overview

The sacral spine refers to the five fused vertebrae (S1–S5) at the end of the spinal column. Basically, the sacral spine is located behind the pelvis, between the hip bones and connects the spinal column to the pelvis. This general area is sometimes referred to as the lumbosacral spine.

The top sacral vertebra (S1) connects to the last lumbar vertebra (L5 or L6), and the lowest sacral vertebra (S5) connects to the coccyx, or tailbone. The first vertebra of the sacral spine, S1, is one of the most common vertebrae susceptible to conditions like a pinched nerve from a bone spur or a herniated disc.

Conditions affecting the sacral spine

The spine is constructed to both protect the spinal cord and support the weight of the upper body. The parts of the spine — including the vertebrae, joints and discs — are prone to age-related deterioration because of the large amount of weight and movement they endure. Conditions like degenerative disc disease and spinal arthritis are not always painful by themselves, but can cause symptoms when displaced spinal anatomy compresses a nerve.

Because the sacral spine bears so many of the body’s movements, like twisting, bending, lifting and stretching, it is especially vulnerable to painful problems. One major nerve that runs through the lumbosacral region (specifically L4 through S3) is the long sciatic nerve, which sends motor and sensory information to the lower body. When this nerve becomes constricted, the radiating pain that is felt is referred to as sciatica. Sciatica can affect the buttocks, thighs, calves and toes.

Another issue that can affect the sacral spine is inflammation of the joints which connect the sacrum to the pelvis, called the sacroiliac joints, or SI joints. Symptoms of SI joint pain can be very similar to sciatica caused by a degenerative spine issue like a herniated disc and is sometimes misdiagnosed that way. If you are suffering from lower back pain and\or radiating symptoms in the lower body it is critical to see a physician and to make sure your condition is correctly diagnosed.

Treatment options

Once the correct diagnosis is made, you and your physician can work together to develop a treatment plan. Conservative options are usually attempted first for most spine conditions and many patients are able to find meaningful relief through a full course of options. Common methods include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural steroid (cortisone) injections

Surgery is usually seen as a last-resort option because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open back procedures. Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative with minimally invasive spine surgery. Our surgeons use smaller incisions to access the spine, sparing muscles and leading to a faster recovery time^ for patients.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery.