The L4 vertebra
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 the L4 vertebra is vulnerable to spine conditions, such as a herniated disc, is because 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 and tear in the spine we all experience as we age becomes accelerated in this area of the spine, which can lead to debilitating lower back pain and other symptoms.
At the L4 level, the series of nerves known as the lumbar plexus ends and the sacral plexus 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
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 disc between L4 and L5 vertebrae. These conditions include:
- Herniated disc
- Bulging disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
When these conditions develop in the L4 area, they can cause acute or chronic lower back pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the inner part of the lower leg.
Treatment for L4 conditions
Pain medication, physical therapy and other conservative treatments usually can be used to manage symptoms associated with nerve compression. These treatments should be monitored by a physician to reduce the risk of worsening the condition.
However, when chronic lower back pain continues after months of conservative therapy, a physician may suggest spine surgery as an option. The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers patients a safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.
For many patients, minimally invasive decompression surgery will be recommended to help treat a spine condition at the L4 level. This type of surgery removes a small portion of the damaged disc or bone that is pressing against 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.
Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a review of your MRI report or CT scan and find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.