The Complete Guide To Lumbago

If you’ve been suffering from severe lower back pain accompanied by other uncomfortable symptoms, you may be suffering from lumbago.

This sounds like a strange condition, and you are likely wondering, what is it? Don’t worry – we are going to define this ailment in just a moment, and cover everything you need to know about living with it.

We’ll explain all the possible causes, along with how you can get diagnosed to determine if this is really what’s plaguing you.

Then, we’ll cover the most common treatment options for this issue, and uncover whether there is actually a cure for it or not.

What Is Lumbago?

It sounds scary, but lumbago is really just a general term used to describe lower back pain. And as it turns out, it’s one of the most common ailments there is. Millions of Americans are affected by this condition every year. 

In fact, the NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke) claims that 80% of adults are affected by this at some point in their lives.

There is no one cause for it, as you’ll soon learn. Lumbago can happen to just about anyone, but there are certainly groups that stand out as more at risk for developing back pain.

For example, those who live more sedentary lives are more susceptible to just about any condition out there – and lower back pain is no exception. Here are some risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Working an office job, sitting for prolonged periods of time
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor genetics (weak discs,scoliosis, etc.)

We’ll cover some specific causes of lumbago in just a moment, but first, we want to help you determine whether this is really what you’re suffering from.

Where Does Lumbago Hurt?

We already mentioned what lumbago is – a fancy word for lower back pain. But where, specifically, does it hurt?

Look for pain in the lumbar spine, of course. This pain will be accompanied by stiffness, tension, and aches. In severe cases, mobility will be compromised.

You should be able to pinpoint the pain if it’s lumbago. You’ll really only feel discomfort in a small portion of your lower back. It will be very localized.

In some cases, this condition will mimic a sciatica flare up – with the pain spreading from your lower back to your glutes, groin, hamstrings, etc. Any signs of tingling or radiating pain are a secondary symptom to watch for.

If the pain is enunciated when you cough or sneeze, this is another indication it could be lumbago.

What Is The Cause Of Lumbago?

We already mentioned some of the risk factors, but what is the cause of lumbago? As with most issues, there are a few different potential causes, so diagnosing this condition is not always easy. 

More often than not, this ailment is simply a symptom of some other condition. A few common causes are:

Inactivity, Overactivity, Or Poor Movement

We already sort of covered this, but it really is the most common cause. Not moving your body enough, and properly for that matter, will lead to lumbago in the long run. Take inventory of your daily activity, and adjust it if you feel that you aren’t moving enough.

You also need to consider whether you are putting too much strain on your lower back. If you work a manual labor job, or any position that has you constantly lifting, bending, or straining, you are quite susceptible to developing an overuse injury that presents itself as lumbago.

This is why learning how to hinge at your hips properly is so important. Strengthen your core, as these small, crucial muscles play a pivotal role in protecting our spines.

Underlying Spinal Issues

Another common, and usually more serious, cause of lumbago is some other underlying issue or condition in your spine.

There are quite a few of these, and they all more or less have to do with the deterioration of your spine. As you can imagine, these become more common with age.

Two that stand out as more typical than others are osteoarthritis and spondylosis. These are very painful lower back conditions. But, they aren’t the only ones.

You may be suffering from a slipped or herniated disc, which can be incredibly painful. Usually, these are felt at the time of the injury. These aren’t necessary related to degradation of the spine, so they’re easy to diagnose.

But other possible causes that can come on slowly include osteoporosis, stenosis, or tumors in the spine. All of the conditions we’ve outlined in this section are serious, and will require professional care.

How Is Lumbago Diagnosed?

While we’ve given you some good places to start by explaining common causes above, you are still probably wondering, how is lumbago diagnosed?

Start by making a trip to your doctor, a chiropractor, or a physical therapist. They will evaluate you and ask a series of questions to narrow down the root cause.

You’ll undergo physical tests to take note of nerve function and ROM (range of motion). This will help the practitioner get an understanding of how serious your issue is.

You may also need to take chemical tests, such as blood and urine sampling, to rule out something more serious, such as a kidney issue.

More often than not you’ll get x-rays done to get a picture of your spine, muscle tissue, and surrounding organs. This will help identify damaged structures, while also ruling out tumors.

In instances where all of the above still doesn’t provide a definitive cause of your lumbago, you may need to get an MRI or CT scan done.

Can Lumbago Be Cured?

Once you have your diagnosis, you can come up with a treatment plan to start healing whatever ailment is really causing your lumbago, and hopefully, cure it.

Some of the issues we mentioned above, such as stenosis or disc degeneration, are not really curable. But you will learn how to live with the issue, strengthening surrounding muscles, increasing ROM, and managing pain.

Most often, you’ll get to a point where managing your lumbago is a piece of cake, and you don’t even notice it most days!

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Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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