The lumbar vertebrae are located in the lower back and support most of the upper body’s weight. Although most people have five, about 10 percent of adults have some sort of anatomical abnormality within the lower back, the most common of which is a sixth lumbar vertebra. The presence of an additional lumbar vertebra does not lead to a greater chance of lower back pain or the development of a spine condition.
No matter how many lumbar vertebrae a person has, the lower back’s relative flexibility and weight-bearing function make it the region of the back that is most vulnerable to spinal conditions that can cause chronic and debilitating pain. These conditions can occur at any point along the lumbar vertebrae and can travel into the buttocks, legs and feet if severe.
About the lumbar vertebrae
The lumbar vertebrae are segmented as follows:
- L1 — The top of the lumbar region; here, the spinal cord ends and the cauda equina branches downward through the sacrum to the coccyx.
- L3 — The high range of motion here leads to breakdown from wear and tear associated with degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis; the sciatic nerve originates here.
- L5 — The vertebral body is deeper in front than most other vertebrae; there is a smaller spinous process, and thicker transverse processes; this is the most common site of herniated discs and spondylolisthesis.
- L6 — Rarely found in most people, but vulnerable to the same sort of spine conditions experienced at the L5 level in others.
Treating lumbar spine conditions
Typically, chronic lower back pain symptoms can be managed through a course of conservative treatment recommended by your physician. This usually includes a combination of physical therapy and pain medication, as well as other pain management strategies.
If pain continues within the lumbar vertebrae even after months of conservative treatment, you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a safer, more effective treatment alternative to traditional open back surgery.
To treat many lumbar spine conditions, we provide minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Both procedures aim to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve while maintaining stabilization in the spine, either naturally or with the help of an artificial disc or bone graft. Though our decompression surgery is the most common of our procedure performed, some patients with severe cases do require a stabilization surgery.
Find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery by contacting Laser Spine Institute today and asking for a review of your MRI report or CT scan.