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What is Lumbago?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Lumbago is an umbrella term for lower back pain, which can be caused by a variety of issues from sudden strain to tumors. There are a number of treatments for lumbago, depending on the root cause, including surgical options for very severe cases. Low back pain affects many people at some point during their lives, and it is a frequently cited cause for missed work. Because the causes for lower back pain vary, it is important to see a doctor if you have any type of back pain, to ensure that the cause is properly diagnosed so that you get the right treatment.

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 this condition also, and patients may develop a spinal curvature as their bodies respond to the pain.

Strain is a common cause of lower back pain; a common cause of strain is an activity like heavy lifting without proper support. Lumbago can also be caused by arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, tumors, and herniated discs, among other things. A doctor will be able to diagnose the condition and determine the underlying cause with the assistance of diagnostic tools. In addition to a physical examination, a doctor may use diagnostic equipment like x-ray and MRI machines to visualize the spine in an attempt to find the source of the pain.

There are an assortment of nonsurgical treatments for lumbago, including exercise and gentle stretches for the back, anti-inflammatories and painkillers to ease the swelling and pain associated with the condition, and the use of antidepressants to treat the mental discomfort which sometimes accompanies back pain. Some doctors also recommend spinal manipulation or massage to ease pain and inflammation, along with treatments like acupuncture. Application of hot or cold compresses can sometimes help as well.

In some cases, the condition may require surgery. This is often true of pain caused by damage to the spine, or chronic lumbago which keeps recurring. Surgical options vary, depending on the cause of the lower back pain, and surgeons usually discuss the available choices carefully with their patients. Surgery can restore the integrity of the spine, ideally while preserving the patient's mobility and flexibility.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1000261 — On Jul 27, 2018

I, too, have suffered with chronic lumbar pain for years! I had a lumbar laminectomy of L5-S1 back in 2001. I had one, again, in 2008 at the same place. Since then, I have developed degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, and failed back syndrome! I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted back in 2008, but it didn't help with the back pain...although, it did help with the leg pain. They started me on Oxycontin and Oxycodone and I became addicted to them!

In 2010, I had a pain pump implanted, and it has been a Godsend! I am totally off the oral pain meds and I can actually get out of bed in the mornings without help, I can dress myself without help and shower without help! It has been the greatest thing I've ever experienced. I go every 56 days to get it refilled, but that's no problem.

I strongly recommend getting ALL the information you can before having back surgery! For those of you who are suffering, I suggest seeing a pain management specialist and asking about a pain pump!

By anon991194 — On Jun 03, 2015

I never had a back problem, then suddenly one day just bending over, I hurt my back somehow. Anyway, after a year of going to neurosurgeons and pain specialists (who did a spinal injection of steroids), it didn't help. My neuro advised me that I needed surgery. I had the surgery on my back, at L4, L5, and S1, and it did not help at all. In fact, I have more pain now even after nine months post op. I would never recommend back surgery after my experience. I have also tried physical therapy. I am in constant pain on a daily basis. My life has totally changed. I can't do anything fun anymore, but I am glad that I survived the surgery.

By anon966945 — On Aug 23, 2014

I cannot sleep at night because of 24 hour back pain that I have suffered due to three failed back surgeries that occurred back in 1997.

I developed osteoarthritis in my spine and both of my hips because of these failed back surgeries, so naturally, I do not suggest back surgery for anybody because neurologists can't promise that your surgery (surgeries) will be successful.

By chad — On Sep 24, 2013

My lower back pain is really bad whenever I do some serious activities like lifting, etc. Now I'm doing Aikido forced by my school. Is it bad for my lower back pain?

By anon312569 — On Jan 08, 2013

Most of you have serious spinal problems and need to be seen by a neurosurgeon.

By anon308108 — On Dec 09, 2012

I've been going to my doctor for years now and have been diagnosed with this, and with proper medication I can say that it hasn't healed it but has given me a great deal of relief, that is until a nurse practitioner came into my doctor's office, trying to change everything around and now I'm back to square one. I'm waiting on another MRI, hurting and can't move around without my body feeling ready to tear apart.

My advice is don't see a nurse practitioner for health problems, or constant pain. They are not doctors, but in their minds, they are and want to just experiment on people. I am not a guinea pig and nurse practitioners are not doctors.

By anon299512 — On Oct 25, 2012

I am 23 years old and whenever I run, I feel back pain but after stopping I feel relieved or am anticipating I'll feel comfortable.

By anon243478 — On Jan 27, 2012

I've been going to a physical therapist and he's been using traction. He straps my upper torso and then my lower torso and this traction apparatus separates. I stay for 10 minutes, he pushes it back for another 10, and then another 10. Afterward, I feel great.

By FlaminDebby — On Jul 28, 2011

I have low back pain and severe leg pain in both legs with my ankles swelling really bad. I am in constant pain. It never lets up. I finally had an MRI and it showed I had bulging discs with some narrowing at L1-L2 & several other places. I saw a neurosurgeon and they said I didn't need surgery and basically did not know what to do to help me. So they referred me to aqua therapy. Help. I am in such awful pain and have been for the last five-plus years progressively getting worse.

By anon195564 — On Jul 12, 2011

Don't look to doctors to help much after a while. They become tired of the same complaint, not realizing that a patient's complaint of lower back pain is real. They feel after six weeks we should recover. They don't realize back pain can be mentally and phyically debilitating.

By anon143813 — On Jan 17, 2011

L3-L5 show small posterior tears along with bulging disc. This is what the MRI of my spine shows giving me the DX of Lumbago. Here's the catch. I have very little back pain but severe, crippling bilateral knee pain where an MRI of my knees shows virtually nothing. After three years I wonder why my knees hurt so severely. I just turned 28.

By anon143736 — On Jan 17, 2011

My mother had the same thing: a shooting pain in the middle of my back and it feels like a punch, can't breath when it hits.

By anon142442 — On Jan 13, 2011

when i awoke a week ago i could hardly get out of bed. i finally made it to take a hot shower which helped the pain in my lower back. i walk for an hour each day, and my back does not bother me while walking nor moving -- just a constant pressure.

I am in good shape and in good health. I just turned 74 in december and i have not idea what has caused this. What can i do? i stretch.

By anon115459 — On Oct 02, 2010

I herniated two dics, broke my tail bone in three places and now my pelvic area is hurting me constantly also. This has gone on for 16 weeks and I am tired of the pain and the doctor is not doing much at all to help me. What can I do to end the constant pain?

By anon101679 — On Aug 04, 2010

I have lower back pain all the time, I have had it for three years now. As a result I have lost feeling in parts of my legs, feet and the right side of my genitals. Is this serious?

By anon87466 — On May 30, 2010

My back pain started with lifting furniture around seven weeks ago and I have "reinjured" it twice as the weeks of healing were progressing and I thought I was "getting better." How can I know when I am "all better?"

By anon63279 — On Jan 31, 2010

my wife is five months pregnant and was admitted to hospital when the doc thought she had kidney stones. well it wasn't and after seeing the urologist it was determined she had lumbago. go figure.

By anon42454 — On Aug 21, 2009

I am only 16 so what might have caused this problem?

By anon35980 — On Jul 09, 2009

Lumbago, sciatica, lower back pain are, if nature is to be believed, the result of stress. They can be treated naturally and effectively.

There are three creams available I can heartily recommend. I know that they work.

By anon23745 — On Jan 01, 2009

I am in the military and whenever I do situps my tail bone (unsure of proper name) pops....what is this?

By anon16005 — On Jul 27, 2008

How serious can lumbago get, if not treated?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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