Why Your Lumbar Spine Might Be Causing Your Back Pain

The lumbar spine is the area of the spinal column that comprises the low back.

The lumbar spine is made of 5 vertebrae. Each lumbar vertebrae is referred to by 'L' and a number. The number indicates the level of the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine vertebrae are numbered from L-1 to L-5.

As with almost all of the other spinal vertebrae, each bone in the lumbar spine is composed of front and back elements. In front, the vertebral body provides support by stacking on top of the bone below it and supporting the bone above it.

A bony ring with several pieces and areas attaches to the vertebral body in the back. These pieces do a number of jobs—providing attachment sites for ligaments and muscles, making arches through which the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots pass, and forming joints that help maintain the spine's upright integrity.

The 5th lumbar vertebra sits on top of the sacrum bone at the sacral base. The sacrum is below the lumbar spine and the tailbone (coccyx) is below the sacrum. The coccyx is the very last bone of the spine.

Lumbar Vertebrae drawing
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Lumbar Lordosis

Each area of the spine is curved, and the lumbar region is no exception. Curves alternate directions in the spine to help provide balance and support for the movement. In the cervical (neck) and lumbar spines, the curve goes towards the front of the body when you look at a side view. This is called a lordosis.

A normal lordosis has a normal degree of curve.

Common Problems

The lumbar spine is the site of many back issues. These include disc injuries, degeneration, spinal arthritis, and more.

Below is a list of some issues affecting the low back area:

  • Spondylolysis and pars defects are small bone injuries.
  • Facet joint hypertrophy is a pre-arthritic condition that can happen in any area of the spine, including the lumbar area.
  • Spurs are an arthritis-related spinal condition in which fragments of bone overgrowth cause discomfort or pain
  • Back mice are fat masses that protrude through the fascia in the back. This is not a common problem.
  • Spinal instability, which has many different causes, usually results in a diminished ability to support your weight effectively. Spondylolisthesis is an uncommon form of spinal instability that occurs when a spinal bone slips forward relative to the bone below it.
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