Lumbar spine pain is something that about 80% of the population will experience at one time or another during life. That’s a pretty high percentage that will experience pain and suffering – and possibly even disability. The truth is that it’s possible to protect your back from your early years onward by limiting twisting and bending movements, lifting weights properly, eating right and staying physically fit so your back and abdominal muscles are tight and strong. Below is a short guide to your lumbar spine – one that covers its anatomy, pain and surgery.
Lumbar spine anatomy
Spread your fingers of one hand out wide and place your hand in the middle of your back with the top finger reaching the level of the bottom of the shoulder blade. The bottom finger will touch the area of your spine where the lumbar spine starts.
Your lumbar spine is composed of five lumbar vertebrae, the largest vertebrae of the entire spine; the spinal cord housed inside the lumbar vertebrae; disks in between the vertebrae; spinal nerves coming out from the spinal cord through the vertebrae to reach the different muscles of the low back all the way down to the toes, and of course, arteries, veins, and supportive connective tissue to hold it all together. That’s a lot, but it’s all conveniently arranged for a totally functioning body that does what you want when you want it to.
Because of your lumbar anatomy, you’re able to have totally functioning abdominal organs, reproductive organs, breathe, move your legs, pelvis, knees, feet, ankles, and toes; have sexual relations, urinate and defecate. That’s a big variety of functions, and you can see why it’s so important to keep this part of your body healthy.
Whenever there is a problem with any part of the lumbar spine area, you can expect to experience either pain or symptoms that aren’t too pleasurable. For example, you could feel pins and needles in any part of your body from the waist down. You could feel muscle weakness, hot sensations, cold sensations or even no feelings at all when the lumbar spine anatomy is disrupted in any way.
Here are a few ways that the lumbar spine anatomy could be disrupted:
- disk herniation
- arthritis or arthritic calcifications closing down the holes where spinal nerves emerge from the lumbar spine
- collapse of a vertebrae
- nerve impingement
- injury to the spinal cord itself
- and many other conditions (ex. Spinal stenosis )
Lumbar spine pain is the body’s signal to you
Lumbar spine pain results when the structures of the spine are not functioning as they should. The pain that results is a signal to the body that something must be taken care of and it must happen now! The longer you experience this pain, the more likely the pain will worsen unless something is done about it. This is just the body’s way of taking care of itself; it’s the hidden alarm system of the body that makes us all in a way, servants to what the body wants and needs.
Lumbar spine surgery
Although many cases of pain in the lumbar region will usually resolve itself on its own, there are some cases where this does not happen. If the pain is excruciating, for example, and also is associated with incontinence, pain and odd sensations (heat, cold, pins and needles, or no sensations) in the saddle area – the groin, buttocks and inner thighs, then this is a case where lumbar spine surgery may be indicated. This particular pattern of symptoms fits what is called the cauda equina syndrome, where there’s a serious injury to the spinal cord that is occurring. If the surgery is not performed in this case, then the person could become paralyzed.
Cauda equina syndrome is very uncommon but yet it is one of those lumbar spine emergencies that must be addressed immediately.
Disk herniation is another instance that may lead to surgery. Usually surgery is considered a very last resort, and only initiated when everything else fails. That’s because to an extent, your disk can heal. It’s possible with some different techniques that are used by medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, and physical therapists that you can eliminate the pain and start recovering. However, in cases where the pain doesn’t subside for at least six months, it’s time to get in for surgery.
Don’t let the surgery idea scare you that much. It’s getting easier and easier to replace a disk, and now there are doctors who perform the procedure as part of outpatient surgery. That’s pretty remarkable in itself. Certainly surgery is something that should be carefully contemplated, but the point here is that many new techniques developed only in the last decade are making great strides with people who have suffered lumbar spine pain.
Filed under: Spinal Stenosis