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The term “lumbago” has its origins in the Middle Ages. At that time it was believed that supernatural beings inflicted the disease on humans. Nowadays we know various reasons for sudden, severe back pain. Vitabook explains what it is, how to recognize lumbago and how to treat it.

What is lumbago?

The word lumbago is a slang term for suddenly occurring, Strength and persistent pain in the field of Lumbar spine. In medicine, such a pain picture is called lumbago or acute low back pain designated. Often it is Entrapment of a vertebral joint is the trigger. That too Sacrum-iliac joint (Sacroiliac joint) may be affected. Likewise are Tension the back muscles are a common trigger. Rarer causes are Herniated discs in the area of ​​the lumbar spine and the wear and tear of joints, for example as part of a rheumatic disease (rheumatoid arthritis)

If there is also one Entrapment of nervesthat lead into the legs, such as that Sciatic nerve (Sciatic nerve), so one speaks of a Lumboischialgia. Lumboischialgia is primarily characterized by the fact that the pain is not limited to the lower back and the lumbar spine, but rather radiates into one or both legs.

What causes lumbago?

Much of the lumbago occurs during everyday activities. The To lift heavy loads, sudden turning the hips and bending over quickly can be triggers for the back pain. Also exercise is a common cause of the muscle tension and pinched joints that lead to the onset of pain. There are a large number of nerve endings in the area of ​​the vertebral joints. Pinching the joints quickly leads to a irritation these nerve endings and thus to the severe pain that those affected by lumbago complain.

Inflammatory changes in the joints, such as those that occur in rheumatoid arthritis, can irritate the nerves and lead to severe pain.

Herniated discs are very rarely the cause of lumbago. Nevertheless, the pain is often so severe, especially at the beginning, that many people concerned fear that they have suffered such a herniated disc.

An intervertebral disc, considered by medical professionals Intervertebral disc called, lies between two vertebral bodies. It is a disc of flexible connective tissue with a gelatinous core. In the case of a herniated disc, the entire disc does not always protrude between the vertebrae. Often only a piece of the intervertebral disc with part of the gelatinous core (Nucleus pulposus) out. In these cases one speaks of a Disc protrusion (Disc protrusion).

If a larger part of the intervertebral disc protrudes, it is called a disc prolapse (Disc prolapse). Both a protruding disc and a herniated disc are associated with severe pain, as nerves are almost always pinched.

How does the doctor diagnose lumbago?

Most patients with lumbago can describe the circumstances in which it occurred. These triggering factors give the doctor an indication of the presence of lumbago. It is also important to know where the pain occurs, how severe it is and whether it spreads to other areas, such as the legs.

In addition, the doctor will ask if there are any other complaints, such as a sudden urinary incontinence, are available. This would give an indication of the involvement of certain nerves.

To determine the extent of the incident, the doctor will do the Feeling assess in the affected area. This so-called Sensitivity Check is used to identify possible nerve damage so that it can be treated quickly.

Depending on how severe the pain is and what additional symptoms are occurring, the doctor will put on imaging tests, such as X-ray examinations or investigations with one Computer tomograph (CT), fall back.

How is lumbago treated?

The treatment of lumbago depends on its trigger. In most cases, pinched joints or muscle tension are the cause and often heal on their own. Only supportive treatment can be carried out here:

  • Avoidance of relieving postures
  • Treatment of tension
  • Treatment of pain

1) Avoiding relieving postures

Many sufferers take after lumbago has occurred Relief postures a. By cramping the muscles, they describe a "lock" in the lumbar spine and adopt curved postures to relieve the pain. However, such postures, even if they can relieve the pain in the short term, lead to additional cramping of the back muscles. This creates a vicious circle of pain and tension, which can best be broken by treating the tension and pain directly.

2) Treatment of tension

Immediately after lumbago occurs, it can help with the affected area warmth to treat. For example, hot water bottles, warming pads or warm wraps come into question here. Certain body positions can also help relieve tension. This is how the Step bed positioning, in which you first lie on your back on a flat surface for about 20 minutes and then bring your legs into a right angle (for example, positioning the lower legs on a chair), to relax the back muscles and the sciatic nerve.

3) Treating the pain

To treat the pain of a lumbago, so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) used. This is a group of drugs that both anti-inflammatory as well as pain reliever Possess properties. Representatives of this group of drugs are Ibuprofen and Diclofenac. To clarify the acceptable dose and possible side effects, you should consult your doctor before taking this medication.

In some cases, the doctor may also prescribe other anti-inflammatory (cortisol) or muscle relaxing (muscle relaxants) drugs.

If a herniated disc is what triggers lumbago, it should be treated. Depending on the severity of the incident, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory injections and operations on the spine can be used.

If another disease, for example rheumatoid arthritis, leads to the occurrence of lumbago, the underlying disease should be treated.

Can you prevent lumbago?

A weakened back muscles promotes the occurrence of joint entrapment and muscle tension. Regular exercise the back muscles can help prevent lumbago. There are various training methods for this, for example yoga, physiotherapy, physical therapy or Massages in question. Also a general one active lifestyle helps prevent lumbago.

Lumbago is a disease that suddenly causes extreme stress for those affected. But although the pain can be very severe, it usually heals on its own. And longer-lasting episodes can also be treated effectively in cooperation with the doctor.


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Allan, D.B., & Waddell, G. (1989). An historical perspective on low back pain and disability. Acta Orthopedica Scandinavica, 60 (sup234), 1-23., accessed on April 17, 2016

Becker, A., Chenot, J. F., Niebling, W., & Cooking, M. M. (2004). “Low back pain” guideline. Journal of Orthopedics and its Frontier Areas, 142 (06), 716-719. Link:, accessed on April 17, 2016

Important NOTE: This article contains only general information and descriptions on the subject of lumbago. It is not suitable for self-diagnosis or self-treatment and under no circumstances can it replace a doctor's visit.

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