Function of the L6 vertebra

Most people have five vertebrae in their lumbar (lower back) region, which are named L1 to L5. However, some people possess an additional lumbar vertebra located below the L5. This extra vertebra, known as the L6, is called a transitional vertebra. About 10 percent of adults have some form of spinal abnormality caused by genetics and a sixth lumbar vertebra is among the most common of these abnormalities. Read on to learn about spinal conditions that affect the L6 vertebra, along with treatments for the associated symptoms.

Spinal conditions affecting the L6-S1

More often than not, the existence of an L6 does not contribute directly to troublesome spinal conditions. In fact, this vertebra is subject to the same potentially debilitating conditions most people experience at the L5 level. Another difference is the way doctors refer to conditions associated with this transitional vertebra. Rather than speak of it in terms of the L5 to L6 level, it is generally referred to as the L6 to S1 level — denoting an association with the sacral region just below the lumbar vertebrae.

Occasionally, the L6 vertebra can become sacralized, which means it is attached to the sacrum by a rudimentary joint that creates additional motion. Therefore, a greater potential for motion-related stress can lead to lower back pain. Other conditions that affect this vertebra include a herniated disc, a bulging disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis, which can occur at any level of the spine.

Treatment for L6 conditions

Doctors who discover the presence of a sixth lumbar vertebra through the use of an MRI, X-ray or CT scan are likely to prescribe the same type of conservative treatments for chronic pain management as they would for someone without an L6. These methods of treatment include pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification and more. Occasionally, conservative treatment proves ineffective and a doctor might suggest seeing if you are a candidate for surgery, such as the minimally invasive procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute.

The outpatient procedures at Laser Spine Institute lead to shorter recovery times and safer and effective alternatives when compared to traditional open spine operations.^ By using a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques, our procedures result in less bleeding and a lower risk of complication than traditional surgery.^ Our minimally invasive procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advanced techniques our surgeons utilize and request a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our minimally invasive spine surgery would be effective in relieving the conditions located at your L6 vertebra.