How the lumbar vertebrae are associated with back problems

Patients who have been diagnosed with a spine condition may find it helpful to learn about the spinal anatomy to better understand their condition. The lower region of the spine normally contains five lumbar vertebrae, which are located near the bottom of the spinal column — between the chest and hips. Lumbar vertebrae are responsible for bearing the load of the torso and are the largest bones in the vertebral column. Their function is to protect the lower spinal cord and nerve roots and serve as an attachment point for spinal ligaments, tendons and spinal muscles.

Issues affecting the lumbar vertebrae

Lumbar vertebrae are vulnerable to a number of injuries and disorders because of their location. These vertebrae are susceptible to shock from trauma and activities requiring lifting or pulling. The added stress on the lower back can be amplified if improper body mechanics are used. Twisting and bending motions, like those associated with golf or tennis, can also contribute to increased wear and tear on the lumbar spine.

Age-related degenerative conditions commonly affect the lumbar vertebrae. The vertebrae in the lumbar spine are responsible for supporting and stabilizing the body’s weight and movement. Over time, these vertebrae can become compressed under weight gain and repetitive movements, causing the development of certain degenerative spine conditions, including the following:

  • Spinal arthritis. The facet joints that link the vertebrae together and allow for bending and flexing can become inflamed due to natural breakdown of joint cartilage.
  • Spondylolisthesis. A condition of the lumbar spine that causes the vertebra to slip forward over the vertebra below it, causing stiffness, limited mobility and pain.
  • Bone spurs. Related to conditions like osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease, bone spurs are the body’s natural response to increased friction between the lumbar vertebrae.

Symptoms and treatment for lumbar spine conditions

Disorders of the lumbar vertebrae can cause symptoms including pain or tenderness in the lower back, numbness or tingling in the legs or feet, difficulty walking and sciatica, which is burning or radiating pain from the back to the buttocks, leg and foot. If you suspect you’ve developed a lower back problem, visit a physician so that it can be properly diagnosed. Most likely you will be prescribed a conservative treatment plan that involves medication, either over-the-counter or prescription, as well as physical therapy.

If you’ve undergone conservative treatment but still experience painful and debilitating symptoms, surgery may be recommended. However, it doesn’t have to mean a highly invasive traditional open spine procedure. Laser Spine Institute offers a safer and effective alternative in the form of minimally invasive spine surgery. ^

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more. Our caring team can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.