Lumbago 101: Symptoms, Treatment and Exercises That Will Help

Lumbago is a general term used to describe lower back pain. Approximately 80% of people in the Westernized world will suffer from lower back pain at some point in time, and the severity of the pain will depend on a variety of factors.

The term lumbago first appeared in the 1600s and, at the time, was primarily used by doctors. The term became more prevalent during the 1960s and 70s as the public became more aware of the condition.

Lower back pain is typically viewed as a modern day problem as more people today are leading sedentary lifestyles than in previous generations. However, the fact that the term “lumbago” dates all the way back to the 1600s gives us an indication that even our ancestors suffered with these problems.

Causes of Lumbago

What is the root cause of lumbago? The answer to this question is not exactly black and white. In some cases, the cause is not easy to identify even after performing tests.

The lower back has the enormous task of bearing a hefty amount of the body’s weight. At the same time, the lumbar region gives us the freedom to move our waist. It’s a critical area of the body that can easily become overloaded. The muscles, ligaments and tendons that support our lower back may become overwhelmed and inflamed.

Lumbago is common with young individuals with physically demanding jobs. Isolated incidents can also cause this type of pain. For example, you may turn around, bend over and lift a heavy object the wrong way.

This would cause your spine to become overloaded, inflamed and very painful. Other causes may include:

  • Working in a seated position for an extended period of time
  • Poor posture
  • Unilateral pressure on the back
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Osteoarthritis in elderly people

It may seem surprising, but 25 percent of patients never truly find the root cause of their pain. The good news is that the cause does not need to be found in order to treat the problem.

Symptoms of Lumbago

The main symptom of lumbago is lower back pain. Tension, stiffness and aching may accompany the pain. In some cases, the pain may be so severe that it affects your ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Other symptoms include:

  • Severe pain and spasms that causes the back to tilt to one side and change posture
  • Limited movement in the spine
  • Pain that radiates across the lower back

Lumbago may also cause pain in either one or both of your legs. When this occurs, it’s an indication that one or more of your nerves are trapped or irritated. This condition is better known as sciatica.

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your back pain, you need to see a doctor right away:

  • Blood in your urine
  • A fever
  • Swelling or inflammation in the legs or back
  • Depression
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence

These may be indications of a more serious medical condition and not lumbago.

Lumbago can be described as:

  • Chronic – The pain lasts longer than 3 months
  • Sub-acute – The pain lasts between 6 weeks and 3 months
  • Acute – The pain lasts less than 6 weeks

Lumbago Treatment Options

Treatment options often depend on the severity of the pain and whether the lumbago is chronic or acute.

Acute lumbago may be treated with:

  • NSAIDs
  • Exercise
  • Antidepressants
  • Posture correction

Chronic lumbago may be treated with

  • Exercise
  • NSAIDs
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Spinal manipulation

In many cases, strengthening the lower back and correcting seated posture are enough to minimize or eliminate lumbago.

In addition to the treatment options listed above, your doctor may also recommend that you maintain a healthy weight to reduce the strain on your back. Reducing acid-forming foods in your diet and better stress management may also be recommended.

Exercises to Improve Lower Back Pain


Strengthening and stretching your lower back can help reduce inflammation and pain. To prevent the problem from getting worse, use gentle exercises and ensure that you use proper form when engaging in strength training exercises.

Ankle Pumps

  • Lie flat on your back
  • Flex your ankle up and down
  • Repeat 10 times on each ankle

Wall Squats

  • Stand with your back flat against a wall
  • Make sure that your feet are out 12 inches in front of your body
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles while slowly bending your knees down to a 45 degree angle
  • Hold the squat for five to ten seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Repeat 10 times

Heel (or Calf) Raises

  • Stand up straight and place your weight evenly on both feet
  • Slowly raise your heels up
  • Slowly lower down
  • Repeat 10 times

Sitting on an Exercise Ball

This exercise will require a large exercise ball.

  • Sit on the ball with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Your feet should be resting on the floor.
  • Raise and lower your arm slowly over your head. Alternate between the right and left side.
  • Raise and lower your heel slowly. Alternative between the right and left side.

Lumbar Stabilization with Swiss Ball

This intermediate exercise will require a Swiss ball.

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your calves resting on the ball.
  • Slowly raise one arm over your head and then lower your arm, alternating between the right and left side.
  • At the same time, slowly straighten the opposite knee so that your leg is up in the air.
  • Hold the position for five to ten seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Single Knee Stretch

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  • Bring your right knee towards your chest by holding your thigh behind your knee.
  • Relax any tension you may feel.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat five times on each leg.

Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  • Hold your right thigh behind your knee.
  • Slowly being straightening the knee being mindful of your hamstrings
  • Do not attempt to overextend your knee. If you experience pain or the stretch becomes overwhelming, stop the stretch immediately.
  • Otherwise, hold for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

Leg Raises

Leg raises work more than just your lower back. They also work your buttocks and your lower abdomen.

  • Lie flat on your back.
  • Straighten your left leg and bend your right knee.
  • Stabilize your lower back by tightening your abdominal muscles.
  • Slowly begin lifting your left leg until it is six to 12 inches off of the ground. Remember to keep your leg straight.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Lower your leg down slowly.
  • Repeat 10 times on each leg.

In addition to the exercises listed above, you should also make an effort to correct your posture. In many cases, posture correction can help eliminate lower back pain altogether.

If necessary, purchase ergonomic office chairs and ensure that your workstation is properly fitted for your own personal body shape and size.

If you remain consistent and persistent with these exercises, they can help strengthen and stretch the lower back to minimize pain and restore normal functioning.

Your doctor may also provide you with a list of exercises that he or she recommends. As always, make sure that you follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations and guidelines for the best results.

Further Resources

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