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.
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.