A lumbar vertebra is a vertebral segment located in the lower back between the thoracic spine and sacrum. The five, or in rare cases six, vertebrae in the lumbar (lower) spine are responsible for supporting the majority of the body’s weight and allowing the body to bend and move.
A lumbar vertebra generally has a taller and bulkier vertebral body compared to the thoracic (middle) and cervical (upper) vertebrae. This extra size is important, because it allows an individual vertebra to help support the weight and movements of the body.
Years of repetitive motion, coupled with the stress of supporting the body’s weight, puts the lumbar region of the spine at risk of developing potentially debilitating spine conditions such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. Because there is so much pressure in the lumbar spine over the years, a vertebra in the lower back is more susceptible to degeneration than a vertebra in the cervical or thoracic spine.
Degeneration in this area of the spine can lead to the growth of bone spurs, which are the body’s defense mechanism against the loss of spinal stability. Also, the disc between the L4 and L5 vertebrae is particularly vulnerable to herniating or bulging.
Naming a lumbar vertebra
The lumbar vertebrae begin where the thoracic vertebrae end. Just as the 12 thoracic, labeled T1 to T12 and seven cervical vertebrae, labeled C1 to C7, are named by letter and number, the lumbar vertebrae are labeled as follows:
- L1 — connected to the T12; located near the stomach’s pylorus
- L2 — the site where the spinal cord ends and the cauda equina begins to branch off
- L3 — the first of the most vulnerable lumbar vertebra, where much of the body’s weight is supported
- L4 — along with the L5, the most common site of lumbar problems
- L5 — associated with the origin of the sciatic nerve, as well as disc compression between L4 and L5
- L6 — rarely occurring, but subject to the same type of conditions as the L5 in most people
Treating lumbar conditions
If you suspect you have a lumbar spine condition that is causing you lower back pain, schedule a visit with your doctor right away for a diagnosis. Very often, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness can be managed through pain medication, physical therapy or other conservative treatment. However if surgery becomes an option, contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive spine surgery can help you find relief from back pain.
Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures provide patients with an outpatient alternative to traditional open back surgery. Because we approach each procedure through a small incision and with less muscle disruption, our patients can benefit from a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication.^
To treat the most common degenerative spine conditions in the lumbar spine, we offer several types of minimally invasive decompression surgeries and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries. Many degenerative spine conditions are able to benefit from a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small portion of spinal anatomy to relieve nerve compression. However, some conditions may require a stabilization surgery, which is our minimally invasive approach to spinal fusion surgery.
Find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures by asking for your free MRI review today.*