Rare But Not Of Concern

So, the whole sixth lumbar vertebra has kind of been of interest to me. I did some online searching and found an interesting article which explains the abnormality some:

[A]pproximately 10% of adults, have a congenital anomaly in their lower back. One of the most common anomalies is the presence of a sixth lumbar vertebra. Having one extra lumbar vertebra provides no advantage or disadvantage to the individual and is rarely a cause of back problems… [A]nomalies such as these in the lumbar spine and sacral spine are simply variants of normal bony architecture and are typically of no consequence. In other words, it would be very rare for an abnormality such as a sixth lumbar vertebra or extra bone in the sacrum to cause back problems.

I’ll file this under “I found it on the internet so therefore it must be true.” My doctor indicated that mine wasn’t of concern since everything was all aligned. I didn’t ask what happens if it isn’t as I was afraid what the answer might be.

It would also appear that the correct term for this “L6” bone is Lumbosacral transitional vertebra.

Now this comment was particularly interesting to me:

You may be interested to find that while the homo sapien is characterized by having five lumbar vertebra but homo erectus (the first of the human skeletons found in Africa, including Lucy and australopithecus africanus skeletons) typically had 6 lumbar vertebra.

Something I was at least able to partially corroborate here. Now, before you decide to start poking fun at me for being less evolved than you, keep in mind that modern great apes have only three or four lumbar vertebrae. It’s all relative.

42 thoughts on “Rare But Not Of Concern”

  1. Perhaps you could view #6 as a spare or perhaps as a 6th degree of freedom. In any case be forewarned I am likely to refer to you as modern day australopithecus. Good stuff.

  2. Well, I can say that Dad doesn’t have this one. I may be the only one with this retro-mutation (if that’s what it really is…). The links above also indicate that it’s particularly rare in Europeans (more common in Aboriginal Australians, for example).

  3. foloowing a MRI scan I have been told I have a extra lumbar at the base(6th lumbar vertabrae). I had the scan to see why my pelivis keep moving and casuing me pain and inflamation. My Osteopath has to keep putting me back in palce! . It has something to do with the extra vertabrae in some ways as the sacro joint isnt supporting my pelvis as good as it should( we think) anyone else got this problem.

  4. Hey, i recently found out i have an extra lumbar vertebrae, have been in all sorts of agony which sent me to the doctor. I’m a little confused though because everything I have found on the internet about this says having the extra vertebrae doesn’t cause any problems or pain, I know its the internet and not reliable but come on, you’d think one person would put something up about it.

  5. ok, i’ve had 3 back surgeries with consequently multiple MRI’s… I just found out i have 6 lumbar vertebrae on a simple x-ray… i find it odd that i’ve been sliced on, had lots of images, and no one has considered it important enough to mention the extra lumbar. in fact, it keeps getting referred to as L5-S1 on MRI’s in the past and operative reports. What is the DEAL??? If they “doctor” this originally dictated report I had a “friend” read to me before I see the surgeon next week, I’m gonna be MORE suspicious than I am now. I read where some of my reports had been “changed.” I don’t care what people say, I’ve had horendous back problems all my life. It warrents more investigating, back problems and an extra lumbar vertebrae combined with hard work may in deed be a bad combination.

  6. I have a 6th Lumbar vertebrae, which is a true vertebrae. I have seen my own xrays and had my doctor and neurosurgeon explain my own xrays to me. The 6th vertebrae is fused to my spine with no disc between it and my sacrum, but it is fused slightly crooked, which has caused extra pressure on my L4/L5 and other vertebrae and discs. I have had back pain most of my adult life. about 6 years ago, my L4/L5 disc ruptured severely into my spinal canal, requiring emergency surgery (a partial laminectomy). I have recoverd exceptionally well considering the severity of the rupture, with only occasional tingling or numbness in my left leg and foot if I do too much strenuous activity. I was told that this was most likely due to the fact that the nerves were not impinged for very long between the rupture and the surgery (only about 12 hours went by), so the damage was minimal. The longer nerves are pinched without relief, the more severe and permanent the damage is likely to be. For this reason, I sometimes disagree with a doctor’s decision to put their patients on bed rest, traction, pain meds, muscle relaxants…just to “see” if the problem goes away on its own…without ordering xrays or an MRI to determine the severity of the pinched nerves. It may “go away on its own” in many cases, but in the event it does not, by the time they determine that, the nerves have most likely been damaged more severely, and complete recovery may no longer be possible. From personal experience: Be sure to get more than one oppinion, and don’t mess around and wait too long to get treatment or surgery if necessary. Its your health and your body, so you can request that your doctor order the xrays and MRI sooner than later. Prevention is always better than cure, so don’t wait until your disc ruptures!

  7. i have had a series of back problems,first i broke L1-L4 processes off….fixed it….4 yrs later started having terrible back pain, found a L6 and my L5 is seperated, said it was a birth defect…..is your L5 normal? do you have any pain with simple walking, cleaning, shopping…that sort of stuff? docs say surgery might help, but they would be fusing L6 with it L5 and L4….everyone i know advises against surgery cuz they still have back pain and theirs was for a slip disc….not the same thing in my eyes…not sure what to do but i am going crazy with all the back pain

  8. Wow. I guess it is apparent what can be the case if a sixth vertebrae is not in alignment with the rest of one’s spine.

    Lower back pain is remarkably common in humans; most likely resulting from our relatively recent decision to go it on just our hind legs. It sounds like a lot of people in are in a great deal of pain which is possibly linked to the presence (and mis-alignment of) an extra vertebrae.

    I am quite fortunate in that mine causes me no problems and I would have never known of such a thing except for the herniated L5-S disc in my back, for which I got an MRI. As a matter of fact, even the pain signals from my sciatic nerve have ceased in the past 10 months (this is mainly a result of running less, therefore less of the disc pressing into the nerve).

    I honestly don’t know what else to say to any save for providing my sympathy. I’ve had just enough back and nerve pain to know how hard it can be to live with. Finding the right Orthopedist to diagnose (I highly recommend sports medicine docs) and the possibly a good neurosurgeon to operate (I believe they’re better equipped for spinal surgery than orthopedic surgeons) is essentially the only advice I can give.

  9. I have alot of back pain and have been seeing a chiropractor for 25+ years. While most of the problems are well controlled my lower back pain has been getting progressively worse. It usually occurs as a dull ache across both hips, worse when standing or lying down for long periods. My chiro told me years of bad posture have caught up with me. Recent X-Ray showed 6th Lumber vertibrae is not fused and is mobile. The issue for me has been this extra joint has allowed my hips to rotate further forward exaggerating the curve in my lower back and putting extra pressure on the lower joints. Advice from the chiro was lose weight and exercise abs to help rotate my hips back to a more normal position. I now do abs exercises most mornings (eg 30 situps and 30 leg raises, or 100 alternating elbow to knee leg raises). This has dramatically reduced my pain. I am now 47 and after 2 years of abs work I have been able to resume full on karate training. I only get pain now if I get slack and skip the morning exercises.

  10. I have spina bifida occulta of s1, plus an add’l true lumbar vertebrae. Have been in excruciating pain for over 10 yrs. Dr’s have done little to nothing, except prescribe narcotics. Now on morphine patch, neuronton, and vicidon I have l4-l5 nerve root impingement with foraminal space narrowing. sitting, standing in 1 place, driving, walking long distances, bending, all cause severe pain. Can anyone advise? Only 35, with 2 very active children, that I can barely take care of, they do more taking care of me! I just want my life back.

  11. 6th lumbar vertebra nothing to worry about I DON’T THINK SO
    I was diagnosed with a 6th lumbar vertebra in 1975 after I went to the doctor with back pain and being baely able to walk. He said it was an imflamation of the 6th with the sacrum. We cured it this time with some rest and anti inflamatents. He then gave me some excercises which I have been doing ever since. I had one other bad flare up a couple years after and I realized I was doing the same type of work that I had been doing in 75 I was painting overhead on a ladder and torquing my upper body. I have been careful ever since and have not had a reoccurance even though I had to have a lamenectomy some 8 years later due to a exploded disk.
    I am now 77 and still do the original back exercises that I was given in 1975 at least 3 times a week and wear an elastic back brace whenever I have to do any lifting or working stooped. over.

  12. In July I was in a roll over car accident that has left me with constant neck, shoulder and low back pain. I have had x-rays twice and an MRI of my neck and back. Until todays appointment with the Ortho where he re-did my x-rays, no one had ever bothered to mention the sixth lumbar vert. I was confused by this because he said that it was uncommon and probably a cause of my low back pain. After reading many articles, everything says that it is not a reason for back pain, and 10% of adults is not uncommon with the billions of adults walking around. That figures since I have never had problems with my back before getting t-boned and rolled by an 81 year old in an Envoy( FYI: I was in a Suburban)!! I think that any doctor will hold information or stretch it to make you either feel better or spend more money with them. It doesn’t really matter how many verts you have when you have an injury like mine. What matters is getting it fixed and getting back to normal. :)

  13. I also have just discovered that I have a 6th lumbar vertebra. I agree, I question the fact that people claim that it causes no pain in the lower back, but it seems whenever i bend over for a couple minutes, when i come back to standing up straight, i feel as though my spine has “locked” or isnt going back right. who knows, i may be confusing this with some other symptom since i have many other things wrong with my spine and neck. i have 6 months of alignments with my chiropractor, so we’ll see what happens.

    My big question with this 6th lumbar vertebra is this:
    All vertebra have nerves coming out of them which control certain parts of your body, right? Well, my chiropractor said that my 6th lumbar vertebra should have a pair of nerves as well, leaving me with a so called “extra set”. The question is, what do these nerves lead to/control?
    Pretty interesting, huh?

  14. And i thought i was a freak, although i did think it was neat, i too was diagnosed by my 2nd chyropractor with the L6, y not the first one? IDK, or y not the mri’s i’ve had in the past. I am just relievid to know y i wake up with lowe r back pain everyday. Funny thing is, it was my hips that brought me to the chyro. Mine is also fused to the sacrum, wich to explanes y i have a problen sitting for long periods of time, it realy makes my butt hurt, the coxic bone! Especialy hard surfaces. I questioned both my parents to c wich one of them was the culprit, neither of them ever heard of it nor have it. Well i decided to take my 16 year old daughter to the chryo for migranes, after the routine exam and e-rays, she too has a 6th lumbar, myth busted, in our case it is hereditary, and her’s has spinabifida aculta, it looks like ribs, its not fully formed, and her sacrum is unusually large and shaped like a heart not a triangle….she has butt and low back issues too.. wait it gets better, my sister has a butterfly vertabre, two fused together, and scoaliosis…so that again busts the “its not genetic myth”. by the way dont mind my spelling!! Its nice to know there are others, lol! Ask in ur families, c wut other people have!!!

  15. I have a 6th lumbar vertebrae. I have known about it since I was 17. I have severe lower back pain. I have been trying to find out the cause since 2001. Every dr I see tells me about the extra vertebrae but none have ever mentioned the fusing problem. i just had an MRI done yesterday. I guess I am wondering if I should have my dr pull the MRI out and look for fusing or if it would be easily detected on the MRI?

  16. My 16 year old son was just diagnosed with having an extra lumbar vertebrae. We were having an x-ray due to a back strain in a football game. The orthopedist said he will have back problems his whole life, and the x-ray looked like a man in his 50’s with chronic back problems. They sent him to physical therapy to learn some core strengthening exercises, to relieve pain for the rest of his life.

  17. I was just told that I have a L6 as well. Neither one of my parents have it…but that doesn’t mean it’s not hereditary. It can be a recessive gene. We’re hoping to get my brother x-rayed to see if he has it. Mine is not fused, but the chiro did said that I have more rotation in my hip area so it can cause problems. My sacrum and pelvis ect is all well formed …everything looks like it should with just an extra L6. My sacrum is out of alignment b/c of extra mobility in that area. As a result, I tend to take it in and out of alignment very easily. My chrio told me that training the proper muscles will keep it nice and healthy and I won’t have too much problems, since she knows my personal trainer, she said she’s gonna tell her what I need to work on. She also told me that most gymnist and contortionist have the L6 as well.

  18. I was told a few days ago that I have the 6th lumbar, I have had plenty of MRI’s since I have had lower back pain most of my life, the general pain runs down my left leg. As far I Know it’s not fused, but who knows I just found out I have one…Hmmmm, no one in my family has it that I know of, and the pain is worst at night, i go to the gym daily and do yoga, which I find helps with the pain..Even tho it does explain some of the issues I have with my back, still think it’s kinda cool..lol sorry..

  19. My son was diagnosed today, after having severe pain in his back from wrestling, with a 6th lumbar vertebrae and spina bifida and scoliosis. He’s 15. he has been able to do back handprings form the age of 2 1/2 and was doing aerials and back flips off of walls at 3. He was hurt when he was put up against a guy that weighed 20 pounds more than him and the captain of the opposing team (he was a senior) and our coach puts my freshman 15 yr old against him. he was taller and wrpped his legs around my sons then twisted his back while having him in a choke hold…..it was awful and yeas I have had my talk with this new coach. His back has killed him for two weeks and we took him to the chiro and it didn’t help so I took him to the doc and found out the rest. He can’t wrestle and has to wear a brace when working out. I pray he won’t have pain the rest of his life. Does anyone know if the exposed nerved can be covered over time as he contiues to grow?

  20. My Father has 6, as do my brothers, daughters, son. When my wife was pregnant test showed for Spina Bifidda. I guess it perhaps showed a genetic abnormality or something? Anyway the discovery of mine was after a back X-ray. The Doctor read, looked and told me that I had 6 instead of the normal 5. The Radiologist had it described as; Extra Lumbar Vertebrae due to hypo-plastic T-12 Rib. Sound complicated?

  21. I am surprised. I have had back pain for 5 years now. however 5 years ago I had arthroscopy done on both my knees( arthritis). Since then now my back has been a source of chronic pain. Since the knew surgery I can not bend with my knees like I used to. mind you i never really bent forward like most people. I do have a job that requires heavy lifting bending, twisting etc.
    Today I found out from my GP( after finally getting an X-ray) I have 6 lumbar vertabrae. The doctor thought I knew, I didn’t. Anyway after reading some of the posts here. Add me to the list. I do think having 6 can/could be the culperat to all the pain. My first thoughts when I heard I had this was..Just another part to fall apart :(. I got put on celebrex…again. I find my pain hurts more after taking a short rest after working. Sleeping at night :P. I can get 2 hours of slightly restful sleep in at a time. When I awake in the morning..I don’t feel rested.. I hurt like hell.. it’s very hard to get up in the morning. I find it difficult to stand, sit or lie for any length of time. i have been know to lean against things and doze off. I am literally tired of it all !

  22. The 6th vertebra, or having what could be called a tailbone, is associated with RH- in their blood, but others have said it is more rare in Europeans. As Europeans have a higher incidence of RH-, I am not sure what makes more sense. To complicate matters, Europeans are from Neanderthal genes, while African’s are tied to the homo Erectus, so if the extra lumber was from the Homo Erectus, then it should not be in those with European/Neanderthal hybrid blood as much, meaning those with RH-. So I’m guessing it is a myth about it being more in RH- folks, and may in fact be more in those with African in them. Can anyone verify this?

    As for all those living with pain because of it, you may want to check this place out, or see if ones like it are near you. https://www.laserspineinstitute.com/back_problems/vertebrae/l6/

  23. I have had knee pain due to a car wreck 20 years ago and have limped that long as well. Now I hurt my back twice, went to a chiropractor for 2 Years and started walking straight and having less pain in my left foot and back. I hurt my back doing simple tasks again. I decided to have an X-ray and they said I was born with abnormal hip development. So I had an orthopedic doctor look at X-ray and he stated I have an extra vertebrae and wants to do an MRI. Just been a roller coaster ride! I am tired of the foot and shin pain and of course pain in my back and hips. Too young for all this pain. Please God help me.

  24. Thank you for you article. I have L6 inside of me. A few months back I had my DNA tested. Turns out I am in the highest percentile for neanderthal DNA. I have always been naturally strong and have found broken bones to be more annoying than something to cry about. Also I was born with no lower wisdom teeth. The upper wisdom teeth grew ‘down ‘ naturally when I was 35…. If that matters for other peoples comparison. At 44 I am strong as ever and still have not reached my peak.

  25. I was told of my L6 when i was 16 years old. I am now 38 and disabled from the L6 and the accompanying degenerative disc disorder, sciatica, and facet hypertrophy. My back “went out” on me while i was at my last place of employment and i could not walk unassisted for more than six months afterwards. I have been told i should have surgery and i do not think so. I have seen the results of back surgery first hand. I think someone should do a study of people who have this “birth defect” to find out exactly how it effects us and how rare it actually is.

  26. I would like to know; as this ended my career and I am still 25 yrs later looking for answers. I had a Spinal Tap Prior to finding this information out about #6 lumbar. Can and would this,( if done at a higher or Lower level because of 1 more lumbar) with out the knowledge be the cause of muscle spasms, almost crippling; actually putting me to the ground in pain?

  27. I have no 4th vertabrea lumbar how rare is this? Never knew it never formed until I hurt my back Alli did was turn my waist to left and instant pain never had a problem with my back ever or since I then

  28. I googled the 6th vertebrae and found this site. I have a 6th and have had a fusion & a laminectomy. I have scoliosis and stenosis. 5 bulging disc. Always in pain. In my opinion the 6th vertebrae makes my spine not as strong as it should be in that area. I don’t know if it’s naturally fused or not. Going to have to see if any of my siblings know if they have the extra as well.

  29. I have an L6 as well except the wing of it managed to fuse itself to my sacrum. I get occasional pain in the dimple of my hip. Chiro says keeping my hips open and active will help.

    I also just had a DNA test done recently for a study and found out I have above average Neanderthal traits. More than 76% of people who’s DNA they tested have less than me. Wondering if that’s a connection.

  30. Lorenda (cape town)
    Its very painfull and all my doctor told me was i must live on pain killers….
    Rare or not you cant sit stand walk jump run or lay for long and to crown it all i must loose weight another mission

  31. This is so interesting to me. I had polio as a young child before the vaccine was available (missed it by 7 months) so I had many X-rays of my back. Yet no one ever mentioned that I had an L-6 vertebrae until I was in my 60’s and had an X-ray to see the progression of my scoliosis. I have scoliosis from the muscles on one side being weakened by polio. It’s just interesting that some have scoliosis associated with having an L-6.

  32. As far as several of the write-ups saying “no big deal” on the L-6, my chiropractor told me it’s like stacking a lego tower one more brick higher than everyone else… and therefore we have a harder time keeping good posture. That leads to mis-alignment and all kinds of problems with my shoulders, neck, lower back, etc. The “lego tower” made a lot of sense to me.

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