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The L5-S1 Lumbosacral Joint

If you didn’t read last week’s blog post, take 5 minutes and read it now. We’ll wait. Then, once you’re an expert on the naming convention for the bones of the spine, come back here to learn about this critical part of the spine, the L5/S1 lumbosacral joint.

Where Is L5-S1?

If you cheated and didn’t go read about the naming convention of the bones in the spine, we’ll fill you in here. The L5 vertebrae is the lower most vertebrae in the lumbar section of the spine. In other words, it is the lowest vertebrae in the lower back portion of the spine. The S1 vertebrae is the topmost bone in the sacral area of the spine. The sacral area is composed of the tailbone and the few vertebrae above it. So, when we refer to the L5-S1 joint, we’re referring to the joint between 2 vertebrae in your very lower back.

What’s so significant about the L5-S1 joint?

When individuals have lower back pain, the lumbosacral joint, another name for the L5 S1 joint, is a common source of the irritation.

The S1 vertebrae is shaped slightly different than the vertebrae higher up in the body. The body of the bone is slightly larger, allowing for a larger surface area between the vertebrae above it and itself. In addition, this joint has been shown to bear a more significant weight load then other joints in the spine.

What are some of the causes of difficulty in this area of the spine?

The intervertebral disc that is located between the L5 and S1 vertebrae is at a sharper incline then other IVDs. This, combined with the additional mechanical forces in this area, lead to the frequent disc herniations between L5 and S1.

The area is also prone to arthritis and osteoarthritis. These conditions arise when the two adjacent vertebrae rub against each other as the joint moves.

The L5 vertebrae is also prone to stress fractures called Spondylolysis. Depending on the type and location of these fractures, this condition can develop into spondylolisthesis.

What are the symptoms of problems in the lumbosacral joint?

Issues in the lumbosacral joint often cause lower back pain, including pain in the buttocks, and possibly down the legs into the feet. Pain can be accentuated after sitting for a prolonged period of time. Depending on the severity, pain down the legs and into the feet can cause numbness. In severe cases this can lead to a condition called foot drop.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for issues in the L5 S 1 area depend on the cause and diagnosis. Common treatments include over the counter pain medication, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and hot and cold therapy.

If pain goes on for a prolonged period or these methods are not effective, the doctor may recommend steroid injections.

For the most severe cases or when previous treatments have proven to be ineffective, surgery may be recommended.



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery