L1 L2 L3 Bulged Discs

What do the ‘docs’ mean when they talk about an L2 L3 disc bulge?


L2 is shortened code for the 2nd vertebrae (bone) of the Lumbar spine.

L3 is short for the 3rd vertebrae of the Lumbar spine etc.


We have a total of 33 levels in the spine but instead of numbering them from 1 down to 33 we split the spine up into sections.

  • Cervical spine is the name we give to the section of the spine at the top of the neck -
    it has 7 levels (C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7)
  • Thoracic spine is the name we give to the upper back -
    this is the largest and has 12 levels (T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6, T7, T8, T9, T10, T11, T12)
  • Lumbar spine is the name for the lower back area -
    5 levels (L1, L2, L3, L4, L5)
  • The Sacrum is a triangular shaped bone that acts similarly to the spine
    but all its 5 levels are fused (S1, S2, S3, S4, S5)
  • The Coccyx is our tail bone -
    4 small levels fused together that doesn’t have any major structures worth noting.
The image below shows the T1 vertebrae highlighted at the top and the L2 vertebrae highlighted down the bottom of the spine.

From left to right: Spine facing left, facing you, facing right, facing the back


Although the picture above does not show it, each level of the spine has a disc above and below it.

So when we speak about the L2 L3 disc, we speak of the sac that separates the 2nd lumbar spine from touching the 3rd lumbar spine.

For example: On the picture above the L2 L3 disc would be located immediately beneath the orange-highlighted bone (the lower of the two that are highlighted)


So what does a disc bulge around this level mean?

Well as mentioned earlier, all discs are meant to bulge.

It is when this bulging becomes excessive and the compression is constant that we begin to experience pain.

Constant bulging means the outer wall of the disc is constantly on stretch.

Now, the outer walls of these discs have thousands of tiny nerves through the tissue, so any time these
nerves pick up an overstretched disc they can send pain signals constantly to the brain.

Like everywhere else in the body, when some tissue gets overstretched or strained, the body has a natural
healing mechanism that it triggers almost instantly!

Think about it for a second..
Have you ever banged your head on something or badly twisted your ankle?

If you are like me then you’ll know that in less than a minute, a little lump or bump
appears at the area of trauma.

This pocket of swelling is the a result of the body sending blood and other healing cells to the
area, in order for it to repair the damaged tissue ASAP.

The problem is that the body then expects us to have a rest from life for a bit and
let ourselves recover!

Not in this day and age my friend!

We are so busy and lead such hectic lives we force the body to push through even though
we are disrupting this vital healing process.

Now I am not talking about staying in and hibernating for the winter!

But sometimes, a little rest goes a long way .

So what happens when the body sends this natural inflammatory response to the spine?

Well the joint then gets filled with fluid.

And this added fluid increases the pressure in the spine as well (hence why some find
over the counter anti-inflammatory medication helpful in relieving pain).

Once this joint is packed full then the body’s spinal nerves get effected.

You see, they pass through these spinal joints as the exit the spinal cord to pick
up information from the rest of the body.

If the inflammation is great enough we can get referred pain going down the legs and
even into the hip or groin.