Lumbago is a term used to refer to low back pain. Such pain may also be accompanied by symptoms that extend to the buttocks, thigh(s) and leg(s) in either a uni- or bi- lateral fashion (but usually only on one side). If the primary symptom is leg pain caused by a compressed nerve in the low back, then the symptoms are usually called sciatica rather than lumbago.

Lumbago may also be accompanied by other symptoms and signs such as loss of sensation (usually the sole of the foot and posterior aspect of the calf region) and motor function (usually loss of plantar flexion of the foot and toes as well as a diminished ankle jerk reflex) in some areas and back stiffness (pain and rigidity upon movement of the lumbrosacral part of the spine). Other signs include reduced ability to walk or raise one's foot once straightened.

Causes of low back pain

The cause of back aches is difficult to assess, but it is thought that the most common cause of low back pain is muscle strain or another soft tissue problem. Other common causes of lumbago include spinal disc herniation, a degenerated disc, or other disc problems. Weak stomach muscles and weak back muscles are thought to increase the stress on the back and contribute to low back pain.

Low back pain treatments

There are many non-surgical means of managing low back pain, and the vast majority of cases of low back pain can be successfully treated without surgery. Typical approaches include the use of NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), physiotherapy and, if needed, one or two days of bed rest at the onset of severe pain. More than a couple days of bed rest is not usually recommended, as activity and stretching will usually help with pain relief. For pain that continues more than a few days or weeks, an epidural steroid injection may be used to alleviate the low back pain and inflammation. A combination of different therapies, such as pain medication and physical therapy, is typically prescribed. Another non-surgical way of managing low back pain is massage therapy. The primary focus will be locating taught bands and trigger points within the taught bands. Trigger points can be a primary cause of low back pain and shouldn't be overlooked. Range of motion testing, strength testing, postural assessment and an in depth analysis of the client's health history will enable the therapist to assess whether or not the client's pain is caused by trigger points or some other pathology.

If the pain is severe and continues more than a few weeks or months, or if there may be permanent loss of function of the limb(s) involved, surgical options to treat the cause of the pain may be considered.