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What is lumbago?
Lumbago is a general term used to describe pain in the lumbar region, or lower back. It is defined as a mild to severe pain or discomfort in the area of the lower back. Ranging in severity from acute (i.e. sudden and severe) to chronic (if it has lasted for more than three months) lumbago can occur in any age group, but is common among younger people who engage in hard physical work and also among people of retirement age.
If you are suffering from lumbago, some or all of the following symptoms may be present:
Identifying the exact cause of lumbago is very difficult. It can be caused by a variety of conditions such as a slipped disc, scoliosis (deformation of the natural curvature of the spine), osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) or, more rarely, by tumours or infection in the spinal area. It is usually only possible to pinpoint the exact cause of lumbago in about 30% of cases. The majority of those where another cause is not found are believed to be due to muscle sprain.
The main warning signs to look out for, and which warrant urgent investigation by your GP, are:
In the majority of cases, your GP will be able to diagnose the problem on the basis of the information supplied by you, the patient. It is seldom necessary to take X-rays, scans or blood tests unless your GP feels there is a more serious underlying cause for the pain.
There are a number of practical steps which can be taken at home to reduce back pain. These include:
Chronic lumbago is defined as backache which has persisted for more than three months, and obviously this type of pain will have an effect on your life. It is difficult to ascertain what type of treatment is most suitable for chronic back pain, but a range of treatments will probably be applied in the hope that one will succeed in relieving the pain. Unfortunately, some patients fail to find long-lasting relief from chronic back pain for a number of reasons.
Treatments which may be helpful include physiotherapy, a graded exercise programme and swimming. Some people with chronic low back pain find massage helpful.
The prospects for sufferers of lumbago are good provided early treatment is sought and the patient remains as active as possible.
The vast majority of people are born with a healthy spinal column, which continues to perform heroically throughout the average lifespan, despite the fact that it is very often abused. It is a well-known fact that weak back and stomach muscles can contribute significantly to the risk of developing back pain. Therefore, it is essential that a programme of moderate exercise to strengthen these muscles is embarked upon.
Prevention is the key when dealing with the back, as very often it is too late to try to protect the back after the damage has been done.