Lumbago—the word conjures up all sorts of associations.
Perhaps you think of a hunched-over older person or someone with a severe spinal injury. Or, you’ve received a diagnosis, and you’re wondering what to do next.
So, what is lumbago exactly?
Our article clears up all the misconceptions about this condition. You’ll learn about the causes, how the pain can manifest, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
The basics about lumbago:
- Causes and risk factors.
- How to reduce lumbago pain.
- Is there a cure for lumbago?
Table of Contents
Understanding the Basics: What Is Lumbago?
Lumbago is a fancy term for a backache: more specifically, pain in your lower back. That area is known as the lumbar spine. The Latin term translates as “weakness of the lower back and loins.”
Hopefully, you feel a little better—we know that mysterious medical terms always get us on edge.
Furthermore, if you think you’re dealing with this ailment, you’re not alone. Eighty percent of people complain of lower back woes at some point in their lives.
We’ve demystified the terminology—now let’s explore the fundamentals.
When it comes to illness and injury, one of the first questions we ask is—how did this happen? We’ve got you covered.
Causes of Lumbago
Lower back pain is akin to stomach discomfort—that is to say, it’s usually indicative of something else.
In the same way that you don’t experience gastrointestinal distress without a trigger (like, say, in my case, gas station sushi), lumbago doesn’t miraculously appear unprovoked.
There are two broad categories of causes: specific and non-specific. The former are physical ailments or injuries. The latter are brought on by something that can’t be identified.
Ninety percent of lower back pain cases get classed as non-specified. That means that all other illnesses and injuries get ruled out by your doctor.
This video explores potential causes and explains when you should worry:
Don’t despair—there’s good news to be had. The majority of lumbago cases are acute, meaning they last for a couple of days to a week.
Subacute cases can endure for around four to 12 weeks, and chronic lower back pain is anything that persists for longer than that.
We detail the typical perpetrators here:
This one’s obvious, but it bears mentioning. An injury such as a fall, a car accident, or similar unfortunate incidents can cause lumbago.
Generally, the resultant pain is due to one or more of the ailments we outline below.
Soft Muscle Strains
In our back, we have a group of muscles and they all play essential roles in our spinal well-being.
Straining your muscles can cause discomfort that ranges from mild to excruciating. Over-exercise, heavy lifting, or incorrect movements can all result in an achy back until the affected muscles heal.
Disc Injury and Degeneration
The cushiony spinal discs are essentially shock-absorbers between the vertebrae, or bones, of your spine.
If one or more of these discs slips out of place due to injury, it can press on surrounding nerves—in turn causing pain. A herniated (or ruptured) disc can occur anywhere in your spine, but they’re more common in the lumbar area.
Degenerating discs can result in the same sort of discomfort. This occurs when the discs start to deteriorate and don’t provide as much padding between the vertebrae as they used to.
Spinal Nerve Inflammation
Inflamed spinal nerves are bound to make themselves known. Any nerves in your lumbar spine that get pinched or inflamed will eventually speak up through lower back pain.
A prime example is Sciatica, the condition in which the sciatic nerve is irritated. As we mentioned, ruptured spinal discs can also produce nerve inflammation.
Unfortunately, arthritis can strike almost anywhere in your body. Wherever there are joints, the disease can take hold.
Numerous types of arthritis can impact your lower spine. A few examples are ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Fractures to the vertebrae, such as spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, also fall in this category.
Lumbago Red Flags
Lumbago, by itself, isn’t generally thought to be dangerous, although it can be frustrating to live with.
However, if you’re experiencing any red-flag symptoms, seek medical attention. They could indicate malignancy (cancer) or another serious problem, such as kidney stones. A few key points to take into account are:
- A history of cancer.
- Being over the age of 50.
- Weight loss.
- Consistent pain after four weeks.
- Intravenous drug use.
- Night sweats.
- Increasing pain at night.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
What Is Lumbago Pain Like?
The pain can vary in sensation, depending on the cause. The discomfort usually affects the lower back area, but may radiate to the hips or even the legs (as with Sciatica).
You may find it to be a dull ache or it may feel like sharp stabbing. Again, it will hinge on the root cause.
How Is It Diagnosed?
There are a couple of tests you’ll undergo to determine the source of your lower back pain. The majority are imaging tests, such as x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds.
You may also undergo a blood test to check if you have rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or an infection.
How to Reduce Lumbago Pain
Your physician will suggest the best treatment plan. Based on the severity, this can range from prescription medications such as steroids to surgery.
Other beneficial strategies you may want to explore at home include:
- Apply heat: Heat therapy is a traditional remedy for soothing lower back pain. A warm blanket or a hot water bottle can work to relieve your discomfort.
- Take NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are an accessible means of controlling mild to moderate pain.
- Try acupuncture: It may sound far-fetched to some of you, but this healing practice can work positively to combat lower backaches.
- Treat yourself to a massage: Especially when combined with exercise, massage can relieve lumbago from non-specific causes.
- Get physical: Activity in the form of physical therapy or specific exercises can benefit certain types of lower back pain. Check with your doctor first—some athletic pursuits may not be appropriate for you.
This video below also demonstrates a few helpful back-strengthening techniques:
Does It Go Away?
We’re afraid that’s a question only your doctor can answer. If it’s acute, it’ll only last short-term, but a chronic underlying cause—such as rheumatoid arthritis—can mean your lower back pain is constant.
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