What is Lumbago? Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Low back pain, also called lumbago, is a clinical condition that affects millions of individuals across the globe. In most of these individuals, the pain can start rather gradually and can persist for a lifetime. In some of them, it can start fairly suddenly and can seriously debilitate them.

Causes of Lumbago

Most cases of lumbago have no clear cause. Many a time, excessive stress and strain of the low back can cause minute tears in the ligaments that form a part of the vertebral column and this can cause some degree of pain. Occasionally, a disc that lies in between the vertebral bodies may protrude out of its space and compress upon the nearby nerve fibers, causing pain.

Additional causes of lumbago include spasm of the muscles that lie next to the spinal column i.e.the paraspinal muscles and thinning of the bones of the vertebra resulting in a collapse or fracture (due to osteoporosis).

Clinical Symptoms of Lumbago

Majority of the patients experience a great deal of low back pain that is either localized to the area around the spine or spreads to the nearby areas as well. The pain tends to be minimal when the patient is at rest but can get worse when they start to move. Patients may have difficulty performing their day-to-day activities and can be tremendously limited in what they can do at home. Some agents tend to adopt an odd posture in order to keep the pain at bay. On occasion, a slipped disc can compress upon the nerve fibers that emerge from the lower back, causing radiation of pain down both the legs. This condition is called as sciatica.


A diagnosis is often made through clinical history. Additional investigations may be performed such as an x-ray, CT scan or an MRI scan. While these tests may demonstrate some form of pathology, in those that there is no underlying condition that is causing the lumbago, these investigations can be completely normal.

Lumbago Treatment

In the event that a patient develops acute lumbago i.e. sudden pain in the lower back, a simple course of over-the-counter painkillers can help. Commonly used painkillers that are effective include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along with certain muscle relaxants. Patients are encouraged to keep themselves moving rather than take rest. Some patients find benefit from placing heated pads on the affected area. Patients are requested to sleep on a firm surface and to avoid straining themselves too much.

In cases where the back pain has been long-standing, performing additional investigations is often pointless. Such patients can benefit from physical therapy along with conservative treatment options such as painkillers. Massage therapy is found be helpful in some cases. Some patients have even benefited from acupressure and acupuncture. Depending upon the cause, other treatments may be effective though in most cases they do not get rid of the cause of the pain but only offered pain relief.

A word of caution

In patients who have back pain, it is important for them to recognize certain warning signs and seek medical attention immediately. For example, the patient develops acute back pain and notices loss of power in the lower limbs, loss of bladder control and bowel control, then urgent medical attention is required.


Lumbago is a common medical problem that can be rather distressing to patient. Early treatment is essential in acute cases though in chronic cases patients may have to cope with long-term low back pain for the rest of their lives, though this can be controlled effectively with painkillers.

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