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What is lumbago/low back pain?
The term 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, and osteoarthritis.
If the pain has surfaced suddenly it is a case of acute lumbago. If the pain has lasted for several months it is a case of chronic lumbago.
Only in 20% of cases is it possible to make a certain diagnosis. This is due to the incongruity between X-ray scans, MR-scans, and the patients’ actual symptoms. Many of the findings that result from X-ray and MR-scans are also found in people who have perfectly healthy backs. The treatment of lumbago consists primarily of exercise.
Lumbago 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.
80% of instances of back pain cannot be specifically diagnosed i.e. the cause is unknown. The cause will often be a complex interaction between many factors, including physical, mental and social factors. In some cases, the pain may arise after exerting physical pressure on the back, but it occurs more often without.
Many people suffering from lumbago are told to refrain from lifting objects and to only sit in certain positions. However, this will only lock you in a condition of diminished functionality. The same is true for laying still in bed or on the couch. It is important to not think of pain as a necessary indicator of injury and it is important to not overly protect the back but to stay active by switching between walking, standing, sitting and lying down.
The optimal treatment is to rehabilitate the back with a view on the function you need to perform when you work or engage in leisure activities. This is optimally achieved by performing stability, strength and functionality exercises and improving your oxygen absorption through, as an example, aerobics.
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 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 3 to 6 months to achieve the desired effect, depending on your preconditions and functional needs.
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 how stretching exercises are designed to stretch the area of the body where the patient is feeling the most pain.
In general, exercise and fitness training are the best-documented treatment for lumbago. Stay in good shape. Make especially sure you have strong stomach and back muscles, as this will reduce the likelihood of relapses.