In simple words, the lumbar spine refers to the lower back. It consists of 5 or 6 vertebrae (series of bones), which are the largest bones of the spine. A person’s ability to bend over comes from the lumbar spine and the hips. The lumbar spine also has more range of movement than the thoracic spine. It has five segments responsible for motion and they are the areas most likely to become affected by normal wear and tear.
In addition, the lumbar spine bears the entire weight of a person’s upper body, hence, it is highly prone to disc degeneration, osteoarthritis and injuries. Also, the lowest lumbar discs support much of a person’s weight so they take greater strain and are most likely to develop bulging, rupture or herniation.
Lumbar spine disorders are known as musculoskeletal disorders and there are many types of these. It is necessary to be evaluated by a spine specialist to get proper diagnosis. Once the specialist completes the physical exam of the lumbar spine, diagnostic tests may be requested including radiographs, CT scans, bone scans, magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, and myelography. These tests will help determine the exact disorder of the lumbar spine.
There are many medical centers that offer comprehensive programs for the treatment and management of lumbar spine pain to cover all disorders related to the spine including degenerative disorders of the lumbar spine such as herniated lumbar disc and lumbar stenosis (narrowing of spine); sprain and strain on the lumbar spine, and lumbar spine arthritis.
These lumbar spine disorders are very common and the pain they cause can be incapacitating. They result in pain in the back as well as pain that extends from the buttocks down to the legs and feet. As a result, the patient finds it difficult to walk and even to urinate, in a few cases.
Non-surgical treatments of lumbar spine disorders include short rest, medication, injections, and physical therapy. However, in cases wherein non-operative treatments are not effective in relieving symptoms or when a great amount of neurological deficit is present, then surgery becomes a definite option for treatment.
In severe lumbar spine disorders, the type of surgical procedure to be used will vary depending on several factors including the specific needs of the patient. Surgery may involve the removal of the bone as well as the ligaments that are putting pressure on the spinal nerves (laminectomy) or the removal of the disc fragment or bony spurs.
Surgery is always considered as a last resort for treatment. Most lumbar spine disorders improve without the need for surgery.