Lumbago Definition

A man holding his low back grimaces.
Spinal stenosis increasingly causes back pain in seniors.. kozzi2

Lumbago Definition

Lumbago is a general term often used to describe pain in the lumbar area of your back. Most of the time, lumbago may be due to a muscle strain, degenerative disc disease, herniated discs or spinal senosis. Fractures, cancer, infection, vascular disease, and spondyloarthritis are other less common causes.

Another type of lumbago, called ischemic lumbago, is a condition in which the blood flow through the arteries that deliver oxygen to the low back is insufficient.

Symptoms of ischemic lumbago include lower back pain and pain in the buttocks that is immediately relieved with rest.

Getting Your Lumbago Diagnosed

The term "lumbago" doesn't give specific information as to the cause of the low back pain, and in itself is not an official medical diagnosis in the ICD-10 insurance billing code referencing system.

So if you're planning on seeing your doctor about what you, your friends and/or your family members refer to as "lumbago," you'll likely need to gather up more specific details of your pain and other symptoms. 

Before arriving at a diagnosis, doctors like to know things such as the degree of intensity of your symptoms, the location(s) of symptoms and pain, the type of sensations you experience (i.e., are they dull, throbbing, sharp,, etc.)  the timing of the pain (i.e., are you constantly having symptoms, or only intermittently, or is there a particular time of day when they are worse or better?)  

Other types of information your doctor will probably ask you to supply are about pain patterns and how and how much your symptoms disrupt your daily activities or quality of life.

Related: Communicate Your Back or Neck Symptoms to Your Doctor Effectively

To get started with diagnosis and treatment for lumbago, you'll likely see your primary care physician.

She will give you a medical history, physical exam, and depending on what she finds with those, she may order imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan and/or X-ray. 

Lumbago Diagnosis and Treatment Issues

As a writer specializing in the spine, I am a bit "in-the-know" about issues patients may face.  One thing that really stands out to me is a sense of disconnect between what doctors and researchers focus on and what patients expect or can handle.  Below are a few of the most important of these issues from my perspective.:

Radiation Exposure from Diagnostic Imaging Tests

Some people worry about radiation exposure that may come from having one or more diagnostic imaging tests.  Here's a handy guide that gives you the doses to expect from common tests such as X-Ray and MRI (and more:)  Radiation Exposure of Commonly Administered  Medical Imaging Tests.

Do You Really Need All Those Tests the Doctor Orders?

Another issue that comes up in both the medical world and among spine patients is the need for a complete workup the first time you walk in the doctor's door.

 When I say complete work up, I'm referring to the fact that many doctors automatically order a battery of diagnostic imaging tests for every single  patient who complains about neck or back pain.  To learn more about that, check out my article Are Diagnostic Imaging Tests for Spine Pain Always Necessary?

To Operate or Not To Operate?

If your lumbago is accompanied by pain, electrical sensations such as pins and needles, shock, burning, etc,, weakness numbness that go down one leg, your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist,  such as a neurosurgeon. 

Many people worry that because they need to see a neurosurgeon (or orthopedic surgeon) this automatically means they will need some kind of a procedure, or that they will be pressured to agree to one.  The truth is a visit to a surgeon may mean back surgery is in your future, but it doesn't have to.  Remember that you have a right to a 2nd opinion, if you're in doubt.  

And you may want to become informed about back surgery outcomes and referral practices.  To do so, check out my article Does a Referral to a Spine Surgeon Automatically Mean You'll Be Having a Back Surgery?

Narcotic Medication as the First Line of Treatment

And finally, your doctor may suggest you take opioid medication for your spine pain.  While there's likely a time and a place for narcotic pain medication (which opioids are), it's usually not necessary.  I read and reviewed a wonderful book by pain management doctor and status quo challenger, Lynn Webster.  Read the review:  The Painful Truth, by Dr. Lynn Webster.

Related: Billions of Dollars Spend on Spine Care Every Year, but Where's the Pain Relief?

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