A lumbar vertebra is located in the lower back between the thoracic spine and sacrum. The five (sometimes six) vertebrae in the lumbar 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 back) and cervical (neck) vertebrae. This extra size is important, because it allows the 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 a lumbar vertebra at risk of developing a potential debilitating spine condition 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 trigger 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 (T1 to T12) and seven cervical vertebrae (C1 to C7) are named by letter and number, the lumbar vertebrae are denoted 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 physician right away for a diagnosis. Most of the time, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness can be managed through pain medication, physical therapy or other conservative treatment. If surgery becomes an option, contact 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 a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Because we approach each procedure through a small incision and no muscle disruption, unlike the large incision and muscle-cutting techniques used during traditional open back surgery, our patients can benefit from shorter recovery times^ and lower risks of infection and 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 piece of the damaged spine from the pinched nerve. However, some conditions may require a stabilization surgery, which removes the piece of damaged spine altogether and inserts an artificial disc and/or bone graft to add stability.
Find out if you are a candidate for one of these procedures today by contacting Laser Spine Institute and requesting a review of your MRI report or CT scan.