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 stenosis. 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.
To get started with diagnosis and treatment for lumbago, you'll likely see your primary care physician. She will give you 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:)
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 workup, 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 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 goes 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 second opinion if you're in doubt.
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.