The fifth lumbar, or L5, is one of the vertebrae in the lumbar spine. While L5 is a bone and can't be directly exercised, you can work the muscles around this vertebra. Exercises for the lumbar spine may help relieve back pain.
Lumbar Spine Anatomy
Your spine is the axis of the body, protecting your spinal cord and the nerves that control sensation. It also provides structural support for your upright posture and in doing so, supports about half of your body weight, explains Cedar Sinai.
The human spine contains 33 bones or vertebrae, at birth. By the time you're an adult, you have just 24 vertebrae because lower vertebrae fuse during the normal growth process.
Read more: 10 Popular Exercises That Can Hurt Your Back
Seven of these bones are located in the neck, or the cervical spine. Another 12 bones are right behind your chest, the thoracic spine. The final five vertebrae sit in the lower back and are known as the lumbar spine. The fifth lumbar vertebra is at the very bottom of your spine, right above your sacrum and tailbone.
Fifth lumbar vertebrae pain and lower spine or back pain, in general, is quite common. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that about 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.
Fifth Lumbar Pain
Lumbar spine pain may occur due to disease, nerve inflammation or irritation, injuries to the bones or soft tissue, abnormal movement, infections or tumors. Often these causes lead to chronic back pain, defined as pain that lasts 12 weeks or longer. Exercise can offer some relief, but you may also need other interventions, so be sure to talk to your doctor and follow her advice.
Read more: Lower Back and Hip-Strengthening Exercises
Acute lumbar spine pain may result from an injury, accident or age-related changes in the spine. If you bend over quickly or twist to lift something heavy, you can pull a muscle.
Lumbar back pain can show up as sharp and piercing, but when it becomes chronic, it is usually dull and aching that radiates to your buttocks and feet. It's often most intense after you've been sitting for a while, and can be at its worst when you first wake up in the morning.
A sedentary lifestyle makes you more vulnerable to developing fifth lumbar vertebrae pain, as well as pain in the other lumbar vertebrae. This is especially true if you spend most of the week getting too little exercise but work out hard on the weekends, says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Exercise for the Lumbar Spine
You can't exercise a vertebra, but you can strengthen the muscles around the fifth lumbar vertebra to lessen the likelihood that it will lose integrity and cause pain. When you build up the muscle to support the fifth lumbar, your reduce demands on this part of your spine. The fifth vertebra takes less impact and stress daily.
Research published in Healthcare in April 2016 notes that a general exercise program that combines strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness is beneficial for rehabilitation of chronic low back pain.
A strong core supports the lumbar spine, so core exercises may help. Improving flexibility in the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the back helps improve your range of motion in the low back, including the L5 vertebra. Aerobic exercise increases the delivery of nutrients and blood flow to the low back, healing the area around the fifth lumbar vertebra.
The spring 2014 edition of the Ochsner Journal published research showing that resistance training may improve back strength, flexibility, endurance and balance. It also increases the integrity of connective tissue within the muscles, joining cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Furthermore, resistance training may help increase bone mineral density, discouraging brittle vertebra vulnerable to fracture.
L5 Vertebra Exercises
The Ochsner Journal review explains that both core stabilization exercises and lumbar extensor strengthening are effective at strengthening the lumbar spine, especially the area around the fifth vertebra.
Princeton University Athletic Medicine states that combining core strengthening with lumbar strengthening and flexibility exercises may reduce low back pain and improve function. It can be part of a preventive and recovery program. Exercises to include are the following:
Move 1: Cat and Cow
- Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and the knees under your hips.
- Sag your belly downward as you lift your chest and tailbone (cow).
- Arch your spine, tuck your chin and tuck your tailbone (cat).
- Repeat five to 10 times.
Move 2: Hip Flexor Stretch
- Get into a kneeling lunge position with the right foot forward and the left knee on a mat or towel.
- Place your right hand softly on your right thigh.
- Raise your left arm up and back, slightly arching your spine.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Move 3: Prone Cobra
- Lie on a mat, stomach-side down.
- Place your arms alongside your torso.
- Lift your head, chest and shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep the tops of your toes and your pubic bone pressing into the mat.
- Hold for one to two counts and release.
- Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Move 4: Bird Dog or Spine Balance
- Get on all fours. Keep your head in line with your spine and hug your belly softly to your spine.
- Raise your right arm in front of you; the upper arm is placed right by your ear.
- Lift your left leg straight back as if you're making a footprint on the back wall.
- Pause for a count or two and then switch limbs.
- Repeat right and left about 10 times.
Move 5: Supermans
- Lay on a mat on your stomach.
- Stretch your legs behind you and reach your arms forward past your ears.
- Draw in your abdominal muscles and pull your shoulder blades together.
- Hover your right arm and your left leg an inch or two off the floor.
- Hold for three to five counts and repeat with the left arm and right leg.
- Repeat about 20 times.
Move 6: Dead Bug
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your shins parallel to the floor.
- Hug your abdominal muscles in toward your spine.
- Extend your right arm above your head while you lower the left foot to hover just above the floor or gently tap down.
- Bring these limbs back to the starting position and switch sides.
- Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Is This an Emergency?
- Healthcare: "A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain"
- Ochsner Journal: "Exercise in the Management of Chronic Back Pain"
- Cedars Sinai: "Anatomy of the Spine"
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Low Back Pain Fact Sheet"
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises"