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What is the L5 Disc?

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  • Written By: Jodee Redmond
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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The L5 disc makes up part of the lumbar region of the back, or the lower back area. Each one of the vertebrae that are found here are numbered, from L1 to L5, and discs are found in between the vertebrae. This disc is located between the L4 and the L5 vertebrae.

This part of the back needs to be quite mobile, since it has to bear most of the body's weight. As a result, it is often the part of the back that causes discomfort for back pain sufferers. An injury or strain in this part of the back can often cause pain that radiates down one or both legs.

If you had lower back pain that gets better after a week or two, it's likely that you pulled a muscle in the area. In the lumbar area of the back, there is no spinal cord. If you had a serious injury to the area around the L5 disc, you are not likely to become paralyzed as a result. This type of incident is more likely to cause nerve pain instead.

In a situation where the L5 disc has leaked out toward and puts pressure on the nerve in the area, this condition is called a herniated disc. The majority of herniated disc problems will occur in the L4-L5 region of the back.

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The pain from a herniated L5 disc can cause weakness in the foot. Some people with this condition report feeling numbness or pain at the top of the foot. Doctors will monitor the condition for a few weeks before considering more aggressive treatment. Medication to control pain may be prescribed, along with physical therapy.

When these measures haven't improved the patient's condition after six weeks or so, surgery may be recommended. The procedure involves removing the part of the L5 disc that is pressing against the nerve. As a result, the nerve is given a chance to heal. In most cases, the doctor only needs to remove a small portion of the L5 disc to give the patient relief from his or her symptoms.

The surgeon will make a small incision in the L5 disc region to perform the repair. The patient will likely only need to stay overnight at the hospital before being allowed to go home. He or she will be able to resume normal activities, including work, within three weeks after the surgery.

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Discuss this Article

anon308910
Post 4

I agree it takes time to recover from a discectomy. I had the surgery at the end of Oct 2012 and for the first six weeks could not sit for more than 15 minutes without discomfort.

My advice is to continue to wear the back support, and do not sit for more than 20 minutes at a time. Do not bend or twist. I would strongly recommend hydrotherapy exercises. I have been told the lumbar disc can take four to six months to repair.

anon161151
Post 3

I had a microdiscectomy to remove a bit of my L5 disc and I'd like to note that to imply someone can return to normal activities within three weeks is disingenuous.

The sciatic pain was relieved by the surgery, but I could only sit for a few minutes at a time a day after surgery. I had great physical therapy (personalised because my Mum is a physio) and was a model patient who always did my exercise.

I went back to work eight weeks after the operation, but could only work part time because I could only sit for limited periods of time. It took months to build up my sitting tolerance. I am now physically very fit and healthy, but you shouldn't imply that you can go back to normal activities after three weeks (in fact, it took years before I could work normal office hours without discomfort).

The rehab takes much longer, and not everyone has access to the amount of physical therapy that I had. It was excellent to avoid nerve damage (which would have caused much longer-term physical issues) but post-op rehab is an important part of healing and takes much longer than three weeks.

anon124337
Post 2

I currently suffer from what has been diagnosed as lumbago. I am currently sitting with a tens unit on and the pain is radiating down my left leg. I rarely get a five hour nights rest, let alone an eight hour one.

I have gained an excessive amount of weight and that is no help. I have been on just about every pain killer available and it helps during the regimen, after that the pain is back.

Help! I am about to go crazy, I do not go out unless doctor appointments or something very serious has happened.

anon65836
Post 1

The L5 disk is between the L5 and S1 vertebral bodies, not L4 and L5.

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