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What is L5-S1 degenerative disc disease?

L5-S1 degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition that affects the disc in the lumbosacral joint at the base of the spine. This joint provides stability to the spinal column and allows the torso to bend and twist through a wide range of motion. The hardworking L5-S1 disc, which lies between the L5 and S1 vertebrae, can cause discomfort if it bulges out of position or herniates.

More specifically, the L5 nerve root, which is part of the large sciatic nerve, passes from the spinal canal through an opening in the back of the L5-S1 segment and then runs down the back of each leg. If the L5-S1 disc bulges, it can press against the L5 nerve root. Additionally, if the L5-S1 disc herniates, inflammatory proteins can leak out and irritate the L5 nerve root.

What are the symptoms of L5-S1 degenerative disc disease?

A damaged L5-S1 disc can cause:

  • Pain. Chronic, low-level pain, which is typically centralized in the low back, may flare whenever the disc injury is aggravated. Often, the discomfort worsens with sitting and improves with walking.
  • Muscle spasms. In response to the pain, the muscles in the low back may spasm as they attempt to “splint” the area and provide additional stability to the spine. Anti-inflammatory medications and moist heat can be helpful for calming painful spasms.
  • Referred pain. If the L5-S1 disc pinches the L5 nerve root, pain may be referred to the buttocks, hips or thighs. Long-standing nerve root pressure can also lead to numbness, tingling and other sensation changes in the legs and feet.
  • Foot drop. If the L5 sustains significant pressure over a lengthy period of time, it may stop relaying signals between the brain and the leg muscles. Foot drop can result if the muscles that flex the foot upward become weakened or impaired.

Spinal decompression surgery to address L5-S1 degenerative disc disease

If you are interested in learning how L5-S1 degenerative disc disease can be addressed with minimally invasive outpatient surgery, contact USA Spine Care. Our team can answer your questions and provide a free MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for a minimally invasive spinal decompression procedure. Our approach has help us earn a patient satisfaction score of 98 out of 100.^

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