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Lumbago is a term used for pain in the lower back area. Often the pain occurs after a "wrong move". In this case, back pain is due to a trauma to the lumbar region, after an intensive or brutal effort in most cases. Lumbago is considered to be the equivalent of a sprained joint located between vertebrae. Low back pain can become chronic and extend over a period of several months. In other cases, the pain is associated with pain that spreads down into the buttocks, leg and even the toes, in which case it is called lumbosciatica or sciatica. This is often due to compression of a nerve root next to the vertebrae, via the development of a spinal disc herniation sometimes accompanied by osteoarthritis (sticking out of an intervertebral disc compressing the nerve). Many causes of back pain are possible: in the case of acute low back pain or lumbago, a wrong move is by far the most common cause. For chronic low back pain, osteoarthritis is often involved, but tumors or infections can also be at cause, as well as inflammatory diseases such as spondyloarthropathies, which include ankylosing spondylitis.


A common feature characterizes low back pain: a localized pain in the lower back. Depending on the cause, the pain may be increased during mobilization, walking or efforts, or, on the contrary, be improved by the latter. Conversely, pain may be relieved by rest, or aggravated by it. If the pain is acute, it occurs in the classical context of a wrong move or lifting a heavy load. In sciatica, the pain spreads towards one of the two legs via the buttocks.


Lumbago is a symptom and description of pain by the patient is enough to confirm it. On the other hand, the diagnosis of the cause of the pain can be more complicated. In case of sudden onset during exertion, back pain is obvious and no further review is necessary. Then, depending on the nature of the improving or worsening of the pain, various causes are suspected. To strengthen the case, radiographs of the spine at the site of pain is necessary, sometimes supplemented by an MRI. An analysis of blood is often necessary.


Treatment depends on the cause found. In the case of lumbago, rest should be as short as possible and pain reduced by medication: usually classical or anti-inflammatory analgesics are associated with the maintaining of a minimum of activity. Muscle relaxing drugs may also be prescribed. For sciatica, the same analgesic drugs can be used, sometimes replaced by a local corticosteroid injection. In case of persistence of significant discomfort, surgery is sometimes considered. For low back pain due to infection, tumor, or inflammatory disease, specific treatment of the disease is necessary.


Low back pain is not always accessible to a preventive treatment. To avoid the occurrence of back pain, some tips are recommended such as not carrying heavy things or several things at once. If something needs to be lifted, it is not the back that should use force but the legs: bend your legs and let the movement be achieved by pushing up on your legs, keeping your back straight. Stretching is recommended before sports or physical activities requiring use of the back.

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