Lower back pain is on the rise. Research suggests that the current cases, with around 619 million people affected worldwide, will rise to a staggering 843 million cases by 2050. Factors like population expansion and aging will play a role in this growth, although additional factors can increase your risk.

Of course, if you’ve been researching to weigh your options for your own back pain, you may have come across an unfamiliar term: lumbago. This term may leave you wondering, “What is lumbago, and how do I know if I have it?”

In fact, lumbago and lower back pain refer to the exact same condition. To clear the air, let’s take a look at the basics of this term, the most common symptoms, and your best treatment options.

What Is Lumbago?

Lumbago is an outdated medical term that describes pain in the lower back region. This region centers around the lumbar area of the spine, which reaches from the lowest rib down to the buttocks. Today, most medical professionals will use the term “lower back pain.”

Pain from lumbago ranges from mild to severe. Some patients experience acute pain that fades in time, while others experience chronic pain that can be hard to get rid of.

You may see the term “lumbago” used interchangeably with “sciatica.” However, there are differences between the two. Sciatica, a nerve pain that radiates through the hips and legs, may appear alongside the lower back pain associated with lumbago.

What Are the Symptoms?

Lumbago may look different from patient to patient. Though it’s often centered in the lower back, pain may radiate through the glutes, hips, or legs.

Common Symptoms

Many people experience lumbago as a dull, aching pain in the lower back. However, the pain can also be more acute, including stabbing, burning, tingling, or shooting sensations.

Additional symptoms may include muscle tension and stiffness. These symptoms may limit your mobility, making it hard to lean in certain directions.

Common Irritants

Though some people experience constant pain, others will only feel pain after the area has been irritated in some way.

It’s common to have lower back pain after sitting with bad posture for long periods. Pain that worsens after a sneeze or cough may also be a sign of lumbago.

Other patients notice that their pain grows worse after certain activities. This may include repeated heavy lifting or pulling, exercises at the gym, or sports-related movements. This is especially common after movements that cause an excessive or unnatural bend in the lumbar spine.

In addition, certain conditions can irritate or even cause lower back pain. Pregnant or obese people, for example, are more likely to experience lumbago than others. People with a sedentary lifestyle may also notice back pain more often than those who move throughout the day.

Urgent Symptoms

Most lumbago pain goes away with long-term treatment and will not require an immediate visit to a healthcare professional. However, there are a few cases where you’ll want to visit a doctor right away.

If you notice bladder control problems along with your lumbago, seek treatment as soon as possible. The same is true if your bladder or bowel movements cause you pain. Fever, serious muscle spasms, numbness, or weakness in the lower limbs should also be red flags.

What Causes Low Back Pain?

One of the things that makes lumbago such a complex condition is the range of causes. The triggers may be difficult to pin down, and it’s not always easy to identify a direct source. In these cases, doctors use the term “nonspecific low-back pain” as a diagnosis.

As we’ve hinted above, the movements and position of a patient’s body will often contribute to their pain. Constant bad posture when sitting, bending, or lifting heavy objects can put undue pressure on the spinal discs. Overuse of the lower back is also common, and back injuries are another obvious culprit.

There are also a range of conditions and musculoskeletal disorders that can cause lumbago.

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal tumors (both malignant and benign)
  • Scoliosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Slipped disk
  • Herniated disc
  • Spondylosis
  • Osteoarthritis

Treating these conditions is often your best bet for addressing your pain.

What Are Your Treatment Options?

Your treatment for lumbago will depend on the root cause. Working with your doctor can help you identify the source of your pain and find the best treatment option.

Most patients begin with gentle, non-invasive options. If you have mild or intermittent pain, warm baths, short-term bed rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and heating pads can help. For more stubborn pain, massages and physical therapy can strengthen the muscles that support the lower back.

If a specific activity causes you pain, pause that activity and work on retraining yourself to perform more ergonomic movements. Sports coaching and posture training, for example, can help you understand how to position your body for pain-free movement.

Often, mild to moderate lumbago goes away on its own with these treatments. Most patients won’t need surgery.

However, patients with chronic or severe lumbago may not experience relief from the methods above. For this type of pain, you may need more intensive treatments:

  • Prescription pain medication
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Nerve root blocks, or injections that can target irritated nerves

Beyond this, patients may need to undergo surgery for relief. Surgeries can range from laser spine surgery to an SI joint fusion to revision spine surgery, depending on the root cause of your pain. Seeking the advice of a trusted spinal surgeon can help you understand your treatment options.

Get the Pain Relief You Need

No one should have to deal with chronic pain alone. Now that you’ve stopped wondering “What is lumbago?” it’s time to weigh your treatment options and address your lower back pain.

If you’ve struggled to get pain relief in the past, our multidisciplinary team at the Advanced Spine Center is here to help. Our doctors have over six decades of combined surgical expertise, and we’d love to help you relieve your pain and discomfort while restoring your quality of life. Book an appointment with us today to let us diagnose and treat your pain.