L4 vertebra overview
The L4 vertebra is the second lowest segment of the lumbar region and one of the most common locations of spine conditions that lead to chronic lower back pain. The reason that the L4 vertebra is vulnerable to spine conditions is that the five lumbar vertebrae are responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight and providing the spine with flexibility.
Because of the constant pressure of weight and flexibility, the normal wear on the spine we all experience as we age becomes accelerated in this area of the spine, which can lead to lower back pain and other debilitating symptoms. Read on to learn about the L4 vertebra nerves as well treatment options for L4 vertebra spine conditions.
Series of nerves at the L4 vertebra
At the L4 vertebra level, a web of nerves known as the lumbar plexus ends and the sacral plexus, which provides motor and sensory nerves, begins. Among the nerves near the L4 level of the spine is the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body and the source of a series of painful symptoms known as sciatica.
Other nerves associated with the L4 vertebra are the quadratus femoris, the superior gluteal, the obturator and the femoral. These nerves impact the pelvic and hip muscles, which are areas that can experience pain and symptoms when nerve compression is present at the L4 level of the lumbar vertebrae.
Spinal conditions affecting the L4 vertebra
Often, lower back pain can be attributed to a muscle strain or ligament sprain, but there are several degenerative spine conditions that commonly affect the L4 vertebra. These conditions include:
- Herniated discs
- Bulging discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
When these conditions develop in the L4 vertebra, they can cause acute or chronic lower back pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the inner part of the lower leg.
Treatment for conditions at the L4 vertebra
Conservative therapies such as pain medication, physical therapy and low-impact exercise usually can alleviate the symptoms associated with nerve compression. These treatments should be monitored by a doctor to reduce the risk of worsening the condition. However, when chronic lower back pain continues after several months of nonsurgical treatments, your doctor may suggest seeing if you are a candidate for back surgery.
The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Our surgeons use a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques in order to alleviate symptoms while resulting in less pain, bleeding and a lower risk of complication compared to traditional open back surgery.
For many patients, minimally invasive decompression surgery will be recommended to help treat a spine condition at the L4 vertebra. This type of surgery removes a small portion of the damaged disc or bone that is pressing on the pinched nerve, thereby reducing pressure on the nerve and relieving symptoms. In more severe cases, a minimally invasive stabilization surgery may be recommended to replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc and/or bone grafts. This will help reduce pressure on the pinched nerve and also stabilize the spine.
Our minimally invasive spine surgery has helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from their chronic neck or back pain. Contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our outpatient procedures would be effective in relieving the discomfort associated with conditions at the L4 vertebra in the spine.