Lumbago: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Lumbago?

  • Lumbago is defined as mild to severe pain or discomfort in the area of the lower back or lumbar region.
  • Lumbago can be classified as acute or chronic depending on how long the symptoms hang around.
  1. Acute lumbago– lasting less than six weeks
  2. Sub-acute lumbago– lasting six weeks to three months
  3. Chronic lumbago– lasting longer than three months
  • Lumbago often comes with muscle contraction resulting in a stiff back for the patient. Due to severe muscle pain and spasm, the patient adapts the wrong posture.

Recovery Time

Backaches are rarely caused by a serious illness and usually go away in a couple of days. If they occur by wear and tear of the joints then a proper treatment plan helps in relieving the pain. Most acute back pain will resolve on its own within two weeks without medical intervention. Whether lower back pain is acute or chronic, most cases are initially treated with over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce discomfort and with anti-inflammatory drugs.


In the majority of cases, your doctor will diagnose the problem on the basis of the information supplied by you, the patient. In some cases X-rays, scans or blood tests may be recommended if there is a more serious underlying cause for the pain.

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  What is lumbago?
Lumbago is an umbrella term for lower back pain, which can be caused by a variety of issues from sudden strain to tumors.
The suffix ago signifies pain. Lumbago, therefore, means pain in the lumbar region.
The most common area for back pain is the lumbar region, which is commonly referred to as the lower back. This area is composed of 5 vertebrae that support the full weight of the upper body, putting the lumbar region under significant strain and thus increasing its fragility.

Q2.  What are the causes of lumbago?
There are different stages of lumbago. 3 types of lumbago are discernible based on duration:
  • Acute, subacute and chronic:
Acute lumbago is a pain that can last up to 4 weeks. It can range from mild discomfort to inability to work or perform daily activities.
Subacute lumbago persists for longer than a 4-week period, and can even last up to 3 months. It is important to treat this condition, as it might become chronic.
Chronic lumbago is a constant pain that remains present for longer than 3 months. There are multiple causes for this condition, which are difficult to discern with any real precision. About 5% of lumbago cases develop into chronic conditions, and treatment in these cases can require a multidisciplinary approach (i.e.: treatment by several different professionals) if full recovery is to be achieved.
The primary causes are:
  • Damage to a muscle, tendon or ligament.
  • Vertebral damage. This can range from disc degeneration (normal wear & tear) to a hernia. Sports practitioners can also wear out specific regions more rapidly.
  • Poor posture and excess weight are also significant causes of disc degeneration.
  • Joint damage. Various types of arthritis (irritation) and arthrosis (wear) can trigger pain and stiffness in the lumbar region.
  • Skeletal damage. Osteoporosis (embrittlement of a bone that has grown excessively porous) increases the risk of fracture. We can also sometimes find that certain vertebrae have become displaced onto others through congenital defects or trauma.
  • Gynecological problems. Through radiation or referred pain, women might experience lumbar pain during menstruation, among other times.
Q3.  What are the symptoms of lumbago? 
  • The most obvious symptom of lumbago is, of course, lower back pain which may radiate into the upper legs.
  • Patients may also experience stiffness in their lower backs, especially when rising in the morning, along with painful muscle spasms in the lower back. A tingling sensation in the lower legs and feet sometimes accompanies lumbago as well, and patients may develop a spinal curvature as their bodies respond to the pain.
  • Among the common symptoms are pain together with stiffness, which may develop slowly or suddenly.
  • It may be a continuous ache or it may occur only in a certain position. Coughing and sneezing as well as bending and twisting make the pains worse. Sometimes the pain is localized in one spot.
  • Most common sites are-lumbago (pain is centered in the small of the back), coccydynia (localized pain at the very base of the spinal column) and, sciatica (a type of neuralgia with shooting pain through the buttocks). The attack frequently comes on very suddenly. The individual may be moving about freely without any pain and the next moment, when in the act of stooping or rising from a sitting posture, he may have a catch in the back.
Q4.  When do I know it is alarming? 
  • If you lose bowel or bladder control.
  • If you cannot walk or stand.
  • If you have new numbness in the genital or rectal area.
  • If you have leg weakness that is not solely due to pain. Many people with low back pain say their legs feel weak.
  • However, if leg weakness is so severe that you are unable to bend your foot upward, get up out of a chair, or climb stairs, you should see a doctor.
  • If you develop a new, severe pain in your lower back that does not change with movement and is not related to stress or muscle tension. If you have new or increased back pain with unexplained fever, painful urination, or other signs of a urinary tract infection.
  • If you have a dramatic increase in your chronic back pain, especially if it is unrelated to a new or changed physical activity.
  • If you have a history of cancer or HIV infection and you develop new or increased back pain.
  • If you have new back pain that does not improve after a few days of home treatment, contact your doctor for advice.
  • If bak pain does not improve after 2 weeks of home treatment.
Q5.  What can I do to prevent lumbago?
  • The keys to preventing back pain are to use good body mechanics and to practice good health habits, such as getting regular exercise, avoiding tobacco, and maintaining a healthy body weight. The rest will come in handy if you are ever suffering from
  • Many common exercises actually increase the risk of low back pain. Avoid the following: Straight-leg sit-ups.
  • Bent-leg sit-ups when you have acute back pain. (These may be safe to do if you make sure to keep your lower back pressed against the floor.)
  • Leg lifts (lifting both legs while lying on your back).
  • Lifting heavy weights above the waist (military press, biceps curls while standing).
  • Any stretching is done while sitting with the legs in a V
  • Toe touches while standing.
Q6.  Are there any home remedies for lumbago?
  • Avoid sitting for a long period of time.
  • Frequent rests, lying down during the day, can help relieve back pain but may not speed healing
  • Lie on your back with your knees Dent and supported by large pillows, or lie on the floor with your legs on the seat of a sofa or chair.
  • Try putting ice on your lower back.
  • After 2 to 3 days of home treatment:
  1. You can apply heat to your sore back 72 hours after the injury occurs. Apply heat for 20-minute periods. Moist heat (hot packs, baths, showers) works better than dry heat.
  2. Continue daily walks (increase to 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day).
  3. Try swimming, which is good for your back. It may be painful immediately after a back injury, but lap swimming or kicking with swim fins often helps prevent back pain from recurring.
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