The lumbar vertebrae are located in the lower back and are critical in supporting the weight of the upper body. Although most people have five lumbar vertebrae, some adults possess an abnormality that results in 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, if severe, can travel into the buttocks, legs and feet.
About the lumbar vertebrae
The lumbar vertebrae are labeled as follows:
- L1. The top of the lumbar region; the spinal cord ends between the L1 and L2 vertebrae and the cauda equina branches downward through the sacrum to the coccyx.
- L2. The second vertebra in the lumbar spine is slightly larger, yet shares many characteristics with the L1…
- 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.
- L4. The second lowest vertebra in the lumbar spine is a common area for lower back conditions to develop.
- L5. The vertebral body is deeper in front than most other vertebrae and 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 doctor. 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, surgery can become a serious consideration. It is important to be aware of all the options available to you as you explore the possibility of surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a safer and effective treatment alternative to traditional open back surgery.^
To treat a wide range of 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, sometimes with the assistance of stabilizing material. Though our decompression surgery is the most common of our procedures performed, some patients with more severe lumbar conditions are recommended to undergo a stabilization surgery.