What is lower back pain / lumbago?
It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point during their lives. The term lower back pain (or lumbago) covers several different conditions, namely:
- Frequent discus degeneration
- Facet joint dysfunction (sprained joints in the back)
- Sacroiliac dysfunction (sprained pelvic joint)
- Spinal cord sprain in the back
However, lower back pain is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Only in 20% of cases is it possible to make a definite diagnosis. This is due to the incongruity between X-rays, MRI scans, and the patients’ actual symptoms. Many of the findings that result from X-ray and MRI’s are also found in people who have perfectly healthy backs. Exercise is the generally preferred method for treating lower back pain.
If the pain has surfaced suddenly it is considered to be a case of acute lumbago. If the pain has lasted for several months, then it is most likely a case of chronic lumbago.
Lower back pain will typically be experienced as pain, soreness, uncomfortableness, muscle tension and/or stiffness located in the back. The pain may occur as a one-time episode or as recurring pain mixed with painless periods. The pain can also be chronic with periodic worsening or both chronic and gradual worsening.
Lower back pain
- Lumbago is the Latin term for lower back pain.
- Lower back pain is typically experienced as soreness, uncomfortableness, muscle tension, and/or stiffness located in the back region.
- Optimal treatment consists of healthy levels of activity to stop the back muscles from stiffening combined with targeted exercises that strengthen the stability and flexibility of the damaged tissue.
- Scroll down to find a sample of effective exercises for lower back pain from the Injurymap app.
80% of instances of back pain cannot be specifically diagnosed i.e. the exact cause remains unknown. Often, the cause will be a complex interaction between a variety of physical, mental and social factors. In some cases, the pain may arise after exerting physical pressure on the back, but more often than not, it also occurs without any form of exertion.
Diagnosis and treatment
Many people suffering from lower back pain are told to refrain from lifting objects and to only sit in certain positions. However, this will only lock you into a condition of diminished functionality. This is because inactivity will result in stiff and weakened back muscles which will delay the proper healing of the injured tissue.
Try not to overly protect the back and stay active by regularly switching between walking, standing, sitting and lying down.
- Lower back pain is extremely common. Approximately 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point during their lives.
- Lower back pain is an umbrella term covering a wide range of more specific conditions such as frequent discus degeneration, facet joint dysfunction, sacroiliac dysfunction, spinal cord sprain, and osteoarthritis.
- 80% of instances of back pain cannot be specifically diagnosed i.e. the exact cause remains unknown.
The optimal treatment is to rehabilitate the back with a view to improving the functionality needed to carry out your work or engage in leisure activities. This can be achieved by performing a combination of stability, strength and functionality exercises and by improving your oxygen absorption via cardio training such as aerobics.
Many patients think that training is not supposed to hurt, but this is untrue - as long as the pain is not significant and abates quickly after the training has been completed. This is a similar principle to the way that stretching exercises are designed to work: by stretching the area of the body where the patient is feeling the most pain in order to stimulate healing.
Use the Injurymap screening tool to find out if you are ready to treat your lower back pain with rehabilitative exercises.
In general, exercise and fitness training are the best-documented treatment for lower back pain and lumbago. Stay in good shape. It is especially important that you maintain strong stomach and back muscles, as this will reduce the likelihood of relapses.
If you experience an acute case of back pain or a worsening of your chronic pain, try to identify the cause and reduce the training load that first ignited the pain.
As your training progresses and the pain decreases, you must gradually increase the load from everyday activities to return to a normal level of activity. This can typically take between three to six months to achieve the desired effect, depending on your preconditions and functional needs.