What Is the Lumbar Spine?
The lumbar spine is the lower back. Specifically, it is the bottom five vertebrae (backbones), above the sacrum and the coccyx (tailbone).
Lower back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates that about 80 percent of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. It is the most common cause of job-related disability in the U.S., says the NINDS, and one of the most common reasons for missed work days.
Lumbar Spine Anatomy
The lumbar spine is both strong and flexible. It has a natural curve inward toward the belly button (the curve is called kyphosis). Each vertebra—numbered l1 at the top, just below the thoracic spine, through l5 above the sacrum—is attached to the ones above and below it by ligaments and facet joints.
A large number of small and large muscles of the back and hips surround the area, and nerves serving the lower body begin in the lumbar spinal cord (these are called nerve roots, and they join together farther away from the spinal cord to become nerves).
Lumbar Spine Conditions
The lumbar spine is especially susceptible to pain due to its flexibility and the weight of the thoracic and cervical vertebrae above it. Age, obesity, heavy physical labor and a lack of activity all further increase the risk of back pain and other conditions of the lower back.
Some of the lumbar conditions we treat include:
- Low back pain—Generalized lower back pain, with or without an identifiable cause
- Lumbar compression fracture–Cracks in a vertebra, often due to osteoporosis
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease—The breakdown of intervertebral discs
- Lumbar disc herniation—A bulging of the intervertebral discs that often presses painfully on the spinal cord or nerve roots, caused by the soft inner layer of the disc punching through the hard, outer layer
- Lumbar radiculopathy—Pain that radiates from the lower back to the legs or other areas of the lower body
- Spinal stenosis—A narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause nerve compression, pain, numbness or weakness
Lumbar Spine Procedures
At Edison Spine Center we employ a variety of methods to treat low back pain and other lumbar spine conditions, including nonoperative treatment and minimally invasive surgery. Some of the procedures we specialize in include:
- Corticosteroid injection—Injection of an anti-inflammatory medication into the lumbar spine to help relieve pain
- Lumbar discectomy—The complete removal of a herniated disc
- Lumbar interbody fusion—A procedure that causes two or more vertebrae to join together, which eliminates movement and reduces pain
- Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)—Accessing the vertebrae from the front, through the abdomen
- Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF)—Accessing the vertebrae from the back
- Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF)—Accessing the vertebrae from the side
- Direct lateral interbody fusion (DLIF)—Accessing the vertebrae through the psoas, one of the hip flexor muscles
- Lumbar laminectomy—The removal of the lamina (one of the vertebrae’s bony processes) to create more room in the spinal canal
- Lumbar kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty–Procedures to bolster fractured or cracked vertebrae
- Lumbar microdiscectomy—The removal of a piece of herniated disc compressing a nerve root
- Minimally invasive lumbar surgery—A variety of surgical procedures using small tools, small incisions and specialized cameras attached to video monitors
If you are experiencing lower back pain, request an appointment at Edison Spine Center. Our expert surgeons can diagnose the source of your back pain and treat your condition in a way that works for you and your circumstances.