Lumbar sacralization, or the congenital fusing of the lowest lumbar (L5) vertebra with the solid sacrum, is one of the more common anatomical abnormalities people may be born with. Most people have five lumbar vertebrae in the lower back, the lowest of which is separated from the sacrum by a disc. Those with a sacralized L5 essentially have 4 lumbar vertebrae and an extended sacrum.
The separation of vertebrae in the spine allows for mobility and flexibility. It stands to reason that those with one less movable vertebra, especially in the highly-mobile lower back, will exhibit a slight reduction in range of motion. Since this limit has been in place since birth, however, it is likely that the body has adapted its muscular structure and movements to it.
That said, there is little evidence that lower back pain is more prevalent in those with sacralization. PubMed published a review of six studies on sacralization, found here: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Two of the studies concluded that there is a correlation between sacralization and back pain; four found no correlation.
Of course, research doesn’t always portray reality in a timely manner. More studies are needed for a scientific conclusion. We are left, then, with the chance that lower back pain is caused by something other than the sacralization.
A thorough physical examination, including an MRI test to display the condition of all tissues in the back, should be administered. A herniated disc can pinch nerves around the spine, including the sciatic nerve, or just cause pain in the area its fluids are leaking. Degenerated (worn) discs fail to cushion the spine properly. Whether disc damage is caused by sacralization or not, there are treatment options for it.
Physical therapy is a great way to build up the muscles of the core, including the hip, pelvic, abdominal and lower back muscles. These assist in holding the spine erect, taking some of the load off of discs. Physical therapy is a process of identifying weak or imbalanced muscles and conditioning them to allow for optimum body functioning.
If a worn disc has allowed a vertebra to move out of place, then chiropractic care could treat your problem. Chiropractors use a combination of force and movement to restore alignment to the spine.
Surgeries are available that remove discs, replace them with artificial ones or fuse vertebrae together; these procedures are reserved for only the most stubborn cases. If you haven’t already tried everything and cannot function with your pain, then surgery is not the answer.
If disc damage is caused by a sacralized L5 vertebra, it should still be treatable. Until there is more research into sacralization, we cannot know for sure whether this is the source of pain. We can only work with the knowledge we have of the spine and the proven techniques of treatment to fight back pain.