Getting a Grip on Lower Back Pain
More than 30 million Americans have some type of back pain. Often, the pain is manageable, causing limited restrictions on daily activities. But some back pain can make it difficult or impossible for you to move at all. You may find yourself flat on your back on the floor or moving about like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. When pain in your lower back brings your life to a halt, there’s a good chance you are suffering from lumbago.
What Is Lumbago?
The vertebrae that make up the lowest part of your spine, running from your abdomen to your tailbone, are known as your lumbar vertebrae. The term “lumbago,” therefore, is used generally to refer to any muscle or joint pain in the lumbar region. Though lumbago can be excruciating and cause extreme sensitivity to movement and pressure, it has no physical impact on your spine and won’t lead to deterioration of or damage to the bones in your back.
Lumbago isn’t a term that gets much use on a daily basis, but medical evidence suggests that it’s far more common than most people believe. In fact, one study in Europe concluded that more than eight of every ten people suffer from lumbago at least once in their life.
What Causes Lumbago?
Lumbago is generally an indication that the muscles in the lower back have been overstressed—it’s the body’s natural mechanism for alleviating that stress. Most often, lumbago stems from overuse of the muscles in the lower back, either through repetitive stress or heavy lifting. It can also develop over time as a consequence of your posture or your daily activities. If you spend much of your time bent forward (over a computer, stove, or even a guitar or piano), the stress on the muscles in your lower back can lead to lumbago. Frequently, there’s little or no pain at the time of the lifting or repetitive stress, with the onset of pain coming hours or even days later.
Lumbago can also develop as a consequence of pathological issues, such as:
- Osteoporosis—Deterioration of the inner structure of the bones
- Spondylosis—Form of spinal arthritis
- Kyphosis—Postural deformity that leads to a forward curvature of the spine
- Lordosis—Postural condition where the natural curvature of the spine is exaggerated
- Scoliosis—Sideways curvature of the spine
- Spinal stenosis—Narrowing of the spaces within your spine, leading to greater pressure on spinal nerves
- Compression of spinal nerves
- Spinal tumors
Lumbago can also be the result of traumatic injury, such as would be caused by a slip-and-fall or a motor vehicle accident.
What Are the Symptoms of Lumbago?
The first telltale sign that you may be suffering from lumbago typically is a sudden and sharp pain in your lower back. It’s most commonly experienced as an inability to stand up, straighten up, turn, walk, sit, or use your lower back in any way without substantial pain. The pain is typically localized in the lower back, but it can prevent you from bending forward, backward, or side to side.
The pain caused by lumbago can radiate throughout your lower body, leading to:
- Sharp pain or numbness in your buttocks
- Aching muscles in your thighs or groin
- Complete loss of sensation anywhere in your lower body
- Loss of motor control in your hips, legs, or feet
- Loss of control of bowel or bladder function
- Numbness or tingling in your lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet
- Inflammation or swelling anywhere in the lower half of your body
- Lower back pain when you cough, clear your throat, or sneeze
What Are the Common Treatment Options for Lumbago?
The approach to treatment for lumbago varies, based on a number of factors, including:
- Age of the patient
- Level of pain
- Patient’s weight
- Regular activity level of the patient
As with other types of musculoskeletal injuries, treatment options range from conservative to aggressive. A conservative approach might include the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications, including anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, and muscle relaxers. The use of ice and heat on an alternating basis can provide some immediate, though typically short-term, relief from the pain.
Gentle and progressive physical exercise, when an option, can help calm overworked muscles, increasing flexibility, mobility, and range of motion. Gentle massage, light stretching, and yoga can all produce significant benefit. Physical therapy can help build strength and reestablish range of motion and flexibility. When all else fails, surgical procedures, such as a microdiscectomy or laminectomy, can bring relief.
Seek Medical Treatment for Lumbago
If you are experiencing symptoms of lumbago, you can find a qualified medical professional to diagnose and treat your condition through our medical provider directory.