Lumbago or low back pain is the pain that is located in the lower back and is related to the musculoskeletal structure of the spine. It is one of the most common source of pain and may become crippling, as it limits or prevents movement.
In fact, 80% of people have had or will have one of the different types of low back pain in their lifetime, and approximately 70% of young people experience this type of back pain before the age of 16.
Below we show you its main causes and symptoms, and how to treat lumbago or low back pain.
What causes low back pain?
Some time ago, when specialists talked about low back pain and its causes, they always mentioned herniated discs or scoliosis. That is, they thought it was a consequence of an alteration in the structure of the spine.
However, the Kovacs Foundation points out that this is not true. Although herniated discs in the lumbar region are among the identifiable causes, this diagnosis is often overused.
The foundation states that low back pain is caused by a neurological mechanism in which the nerves that transmit pain are activated and muscle contraction and inflammation are triggered. Additionally, sometimes the nerve root is also compressed. Determining what triggers this mechanism is not easy in many cases, so the pain is often attributed to muscle strain or contracture.
If you suffer from low back pain, it’s most often mechanical in origin:
- Degenerative problems of the intervertebral disc or posterior vertebral joints.
- Scoliosis or alteration of the static of the spine.
- Mechanical or tensional overload (muscle contractures).
- Violent trauma.
- Fractures due to osteoporosis.
Other less frequent causes are infections, tumors, or inflammatory diseases of the vertebral structures.
Symptoms of low back pain
When we talk about low back pain or low back pain and its symptoms, the usual manifestations are inflammation, local or radiating pain, and muscle contractures.
Likewise, depending on the degree of radicular involvement and compression, these may be manifested through various alterations of sensitivity (tingling, hyperesthesia, hypoesthesia, anesthesia, etc.) and specific movement alterations (paralysis or paresis, among others).
If you feel some of these symptoms and are looking for how to relieve low back pain, it is advisable to seek help from a professional.
Types of low back pain
There is no specific classification for low back pain. Even so, many specialists tend to differentiate between the following two categories:
Acute low back pain
Low back pain causes pain and is sometimes accompanied by stiffness in the area lying between the end of the ribs and the buttocks.
Acute low back pain occurs when the symptoms appear suddenly. In this case, the pain in the lumbar region can last from a few days to about four weeks. This pain may be accompanied by stiffness in the back, difficulty standing, or reduced movement of the lower back.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for months.
What are some good treatments for acute low back pain?
There is a broad consensus as to what should not be the first option for treating acute low back pain: pharmacological treatment.
But although it is true, we are not always very clear about what is good for low back pain: for this reason, the first indications given by professionals revolve around self-care: practicing specific exercises to prevent any pain and maintaining activity in the case of acute or subacute low back pain.
Relaxation techniques and alternative therapies are more recommended for cases of chronic low back pain, but expert manipulation and massage can improve both chronic and acute pain.
On the other hand, electrical muscle stimulation can be another weapon in the fight against low back pain. Thanks to the electrostimulation suits by Wiemspro, you’re able to work specific muscle areas, exercising the muscles using local electrical impulses. These impulses are generated from devices and transmitted through the electrodes in the electrostimulation suit. These electrodes are placed on the muscles to be stimulated. The impulses mimic the action potential coming from the central nervous system, causing muscle contraction.
Low back pain with sciatica
Cases where the pain goes beyond the lumbar region and extends to the lower limbs are considered to be radiating lumbar pain. If it runs from the lower back to the foot or heel, down the side or back of the thigh, it is called sciatica or lumbosciatica.
This condition suggests injury to the nerve roots that come out of the spine and carry the command to contract muscles to the lower limbs through the sciatic nerve.
If the pain does not go beyond the knee area, it should not be called sciatica. Moreover, in this case, the cause is not usually an injury to the nerve roots, but rather of a different origin.
Come alleviare la lombalgia?
In the initial stages of low back pain, one of the most widespread pieces of advice is to rest. However, you should not lie on your back for too long either, as this posture can be harmful in the long run. This is so much so that it may even delay recovery, but one way to be rested and active is to use Wiemspro’s relaxation program with electrostimulation, which aims to relieve stress and combat tension.
The reality is that there is no way to cure low back pain quickly or a miraculous method, what we can offer is different methods on how to relieve low back pain. Some of the most used measures are these that we indicate:
The administration of anti-inflammatories and analgesics is part of the immediate solutions to try to calm the pain in people with low back pain. However, on certain occasions, medical professionals decide that for a specific case it is better to resort to a muscle relaxant for low back pain. In fact it is very common to take diazepam for sciatica or low back pain. As long as it is prescribed by a doctor.
Heat and cold
To help reduce inflammation, you can apply cold gel packs or compresses. On the other hand, if you suffer from a chronic condition, you should use heat packs to promote muscle relaxation.
Muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain relievers are the drugs indicated for the treatment of the lower back. They can be given as injections, ointments, tablets, or transdermal patches.
What medicines are indicated to treat low back pain?
- Painkillers. Dipyrone or paracetamol are the right drugs for mild to moderate low back pain. Your doctor may prescribe them on their own or in combination with opioids or muscle relaxants.
- NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are alternatives to painkillers. This includes naproxen, diclofenac, or ibuprofen, all of which are recommended for the relief of acute low back pain.
- Muscle relaxants. Diazepam, cyclobenzaprine, or carisoprodol are some of the most commonly used relaxants for cases of low back pain. These are usually combined with a pain reliever (diclofenac, naproxen, or meloxicam) to increase the effectiveness of the treatment and mitigate pain.
- Opioids. Codeine or tramadol are two opioids that are used for a short period of time for acute pain and must always be prescribed by a doctor. These drugs are not indicated in cases of low back pain.
- Antidepressants. Occasionally, your doctor may prescribe some types of antidepressants, like amitriptyline, to relieve chronic low back pain.
- Ointments and patches. This pharmaceutical form is used for certain anti-inflammatories and analgesics, such as Voltaren for sciatica or low back pain. Its use is recommended for mild pain or to complement systemic action medications in the form of ointment or patches for low back pain.
- Injections. If there are signs of compression of the sciatic nerve, the pain is very intense, or prevents the patient from walking or sitting, it’s common practice to prescribe muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs in injections. In addition, in certain cases, when the treatment given does not show signs of efficacy in reducing pain or it radiates, cortisone injections are given for sciatica to reduce inflammation.
Exercises for low back pain
Specific exercises to treat this ailment include different forms of muscle strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises. All of these are very helpful when it comes to soothing pain and restoring the mobility of your back. They also help you prevent new episodes of low back pain.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve your posture, strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, and increase your flexibility. Regular use of physical therapy techniques can prevent the pain from coming back. These specialists are also the best people to teach you how to change movements during an episode of back pain to prevent it from getting worse.
Electrostimulation for physical therapy, also called electrotherapy, can be an added value when it comes to treating low back pain. The Wiemspro electrostimulation suit can work at very low intensities and frequencies that promote muscle rehabilitation and recovery.
In addition to all the above-mentioned exercises to combat low back pain, it’s also a good idea to practice yoga, Pilates, tai-chi, or similar disciplines, since these disciplines include stretching for low back pain. All of them help to strengthen the back muscles and are recommended for people suffering from both chronic and acute low back pain.
To ensure a quick recovery and avoid any movements or postures that may provoke a new episode of low back pain, it’s important to pay attention to postural hygiene. Learning to have a proper posture will prevent any future pain from popping back up.
Pilates and Global Postural Re-education (GPR) are some of the best alternatives in terms of preventing future crises and strengthening the muscles of the spine.
All these alternatives are to avoid cortisone injection for sciatica or lumbago, or medical treatments that can harm us in other aspects of our lives.
Electrostimulation for low back pain
Electrical muscle stimulation is a very effective method to treat lower back pain. It not only relieves pain, but at the same time can help in the treatment of what’s causing the problem to prevent it from recurring.
The benefits of electrostimulation for back pain are scientifically proven and is one of the preferred solutions among health professionals, especially physical therapists.
Specifically, the proper use of an electrostimulation suit allows you to direct impulses to the lumbar region, which causes a pain-relieving effect that soothes any back pain located in the middle and lower back. And so, thanks to this guided action, contractures can be reduced, mobility can be restored, and muscle pain can be relieved in a highly sensitive area.
In short, low back pain is a very common condition, which may be prevented with the right exercises and which may be treated through the use of innovative techniques such as electrostimulation. Subscribe to our blog to learn more about this topic!
Frequently asked questions about lumbago
How do you know if it is lumbago?
Lumbago, commonly known as lower back pain, is a condition that affects the lower back and can be caused by a variety of reasons. To determine if you are experiencing low back pain, you should pay attention to the symptoms and consider any factors that may have triggered the pain. Here are some common signs and symptoms of low back pain:
- Pain in the lower back: The main symptom of low back pain is pain that is located in the lumbar region of the back. It can vary in intensity and can be acute or chronic.
- Stiffness: You may experience stiffness in your lower back, which can make mobility difficult.
- Difficulty moving: Low back pain can make it painful to move, especially when bending your back, lifting objects, or twisting your torso.
- Feeling of weakness: Some people may feel weakness in their legs due to lower back pain.
- Radiating pain: In some cases, lower back pain can radiate to the buttocks, legs, or even the feet. This is known as sciatica and is usually due to irritation of a lumbar nerve.
- Discomfort when standing or sitting: You may experience discomfort when standing or sitting for long periods of time.
- Possible triggers: Try to remember if you made any sudden movements, lifted heavy objects, did strenuous physical activity, or experienced an injury before your low back pain started. These can be triggering factors.
It is important to note that low back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as muscle strains, herniated discs, arthritis, spinal stenosis, or other medical conditions. If you experience persistent low back pain or if the symptoms are severe, it is advisable to consult a doctor or healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. Medical tests, such as x-rays or MRIs, may be necessary to determine the underlying cause and plan appropriate treatment.
How should a person with low back pain sleep?
Getting adequate sleep is important for people who suffer from low back pain, as poor sleeping posture can worsen pain or make recovery more difficult. Here are some recommendations on how a person with low back pain should sleep:
- Resting position: The most recommended position for sleeping with low back pain is face up (supine position). This position helps keep the spine in a more neutral alignment and can reduce pressure on the lower back. Place a pillow under your knees to maintain a natural curve in your lower back.
- Proper pillow: Use a pillow that is firm enough to support your head and neck in a comfortable position, but not so high that it forces your head upward.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach: Sleeping on your stomach tends to twist your spine and can increase pressure on your lower back. It is best to avoid this position if you have low back pain.
- Fetal position: If you prefer to sleep on your side, you can do so, but be sure to bend your knees and place a pillow between them to keep your spine in a more aligned position. You can also use an extra pillow under your head to keep it in line with your spine.
- Position changes: If you find it uncomfortable to stay in the same position throughout the night, try changing positions carefully and gently. Use your hands and arms to help you turn your body instead of twisting your back.
- Appropriate mattress: A firm, supportive mattress can be beneficial for people with low back pain. If your mattress is very old or does not provide enough support, consider replacing it.
- Heat or cold: Applying a hot or cold compress to your lower back before bed can help relieve pain and relax your muscles. Experiment to see what works best for you.
- Stretching exercises: Before going to bed, you can gently perform some stretching exercises to relieve tension in your lower back. Consult a physical therapist or health professional for guidance on appropriate exercises.
Remember that everyone is different, so you may need to adjust these recommendations based on your personal needs and preferences. If your low back pain persists or worsens despite following these guidelines, we recommend consulting a doctor or physical therapist, as they can provide you with a specific and personalized treatment plan for your low back pain.
Are massages good for lumbago?
Massages may be beneficial for some people who suffer from low back pain, but their effectiveness may vary depending on the cause and severity of the low back pain. Here are some ways massages can be helpful for low back pain:
- Muscle Relaxation: Massages can help relax tense muscles in the lower back, which in turn can relieve pain. Tight muscles can be a cause or symptom of low back pain, and massage can help reduce muscle tension.
- Increased blood circulation: Massages can improve blood circulation in the lower back, which can contribute to recovery and pain relief by bringing more oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues.
- Release of endorphins: During a massage, the body can release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that act as pain relievers and can help reduce the perception of pain.
- Improved mobility: Massage can help improve flexibility and range of motion in the spine and lower back joints, which can be beneficial for people with low back pain.
However, it is important to note that not all cases of low back pain will benefit equally from massage, and in some cases, massage may not be appropriate. For example:
- If low back pain is caused by a serious injury, a herniated disc, or another underlying medical condition, massages may worsen the situation and should be avoided until the underlying cause has been evaluated and treated.
- If you have inflammation in the lower back, such as in cases of ankylosing spondylitis or other autoimmune diseases, massages may not be appropriate and may worsen the inflammation.
Before undergoing massage for low back pain, it is important to consult a health professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist, to determine the cause of your low back pain and obtain guidance on whether massage is appropriate for you. Also, be sure to go to a massage therapist who is licensed and experienced in treating back problems.
What is better for low back pain, cold or heat?
The choice between applying cold or heat to treat low back pain depends on the cause and specific nature of the pain. Both therapies have their own benefits and can be used at different times to relieve lower back pain. Here we explain when it is appropriate to use hot or cold:
1. Apply cold:
- Acute inflammation: If you have a recent injury to your lower back or if your low back pain is associated with inflammation, such as an acute muscle strain, sprain, or recent injury, cold is often more effective. Cold helps reduce inflammation, decreases blood flow and can numb the area, temporarily relieving pain.
- Swelling: If there is swelling in the area, cold can help reduce it and therefore relieve pressure on nerves and tissues.
How to apply the cold: Use an ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth and apply it to the affected area for approximately 15-20 minutes each time. Avoid applying ice directly to the skin to avoid cold burns.
2. Apply heat
- Chronic pain or stiffness: If you have chronic low back pain or muscle stiffness, heat may be more effective in relieving symptoms. Heat helps relax tense muscles, increases blood flow, and can reduce feelings of stiffness.
- Muscle spasms: Heat can be helpful in relieving muscle spasms in the lower back.
How to apply heat: Use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or hot compress on the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time. Make sure it is not too hot to avoid burns.
Important: Do not apply heat if there are signs of acute inflammation, such as redness and swelling, as heat can worsen the inflammation in these cases. Also don’t use ice for long periods of time as it can cause skin damage. If you’re not sure which option is best, consult a healthcare professional for recommendations specific to your situation.
In some cases, alternating between hot and cold, known as contrast therapy, can be beneficial. Start with 15-20 minutes of cold, followed by 15-20 minutes of heat. This can help reduce inflammation and relax your muscles.