The lumbar spine refers to the areas of the back that are often called the small of the back. It is formed specifically by five vertebrae that are known as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. These are actually the largest of the vertebrae and are unfused, which means that they can move independently of each other.
The lumbar region of the back is the part of the spine that supports the entire upper body. They give the back power to lift and therefore is under considerable pressure in most of your daily actions. The lowest L5 vertebrae that connects with the first vertebrae of the lowest spine section (S1), the sacral spine, is what permits your spine to rotate independent of your hips so you can twist at the waist without having to turn your pelvis or hips. It also allows for the ability to walk, run and jog with a natural swinging motion that gives an even, comfortable gait.
Problems of the Lumbar Spine that Surgery Can Help
With all the stress that the lumbar spine experiences in daily activities, it is no wonder that this is an area of the back that is often very painful. Common issues that cause pain in the lumbar area can include:
- Disc degeneration – the pads between the vertebrae break down or are damaged and create pain with movement.
- Disc herniation – sometimes the discs can bulge or swell, often when people lift a heavy weight or twist and lift at the same time. These discs will remain herniated, resulting in pain down the backs of the legs.
- Spondylolisthesis – this occurs most commonly with the L5 and S1vertebrae or the L4 and L5. The top vertebra slips over and forward of the one below, resulting in pressure on the nerves in the spinal cord.
- Osteoarthritis – this disease can cause several different issues in the lumbar and sacral spine areas including bone spurs, degeneration of the cartilage that controls the spine movement and even resulting in an inability to move the lower spine. This can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal and a condition known as Lumbar Stenosis.
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction – this is a condition between the L5 and S1, specifically the sacroiliac joint that allows either too much movement or not enough. It can also be very painful.
It is important to our doctors to treat you based on the specific difficulties that you are experiencing with your back. By carefully assessing the symptoms you are experiencing and then determining if you are good candidate for lumbar spine surgery, you can rest assured you are receiving the best treatment possible.