Lumbago: what pro­vides instant pain relief?


Hefty but usually harmless: with the right exercises, severe pain caused by lumbago usually subsides after a few days. Certain exercises help with severe pain.

Lumbago: out of the blue

Unaware that anything could go wrong, you're going about your daily business, like loading the shopping into the car, for example. Suddenly a sharp pain hits your lower back. Your first thought might be: a slipped disc! But it's probably lumbago, also called lumbalgia or acute lumbar spine syndrome.

How long does lumbago last?

Lumbago symptoms can last from a few days to several weeks. In most instances, the pain disappears within just a few days – which is when we speak of acute lumbago. There are rare cases in which the pain lasts for longer. If the symptoms persist for longer than three months, we speak of chronic lumbago.

If you're stressed, overtired, shivery from cold or suffering from a cold, you are more susceptible to lumbago.

Exercise for lumbago: raised calves position

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Lay your calves on a chair or stool.
  3. The legs should rest at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Stay there for 20 to 30 minutes.

If you can, lay your legs on a gymnastic ball. Bend and stretch your legs slightly but let the weight of your legs rest on the ball. This relaxes the tense muscles in the lower back and supplies them with blood.

Home remedies & pain relief

  • Placing a hot-water bottle or a heat pad on the affected area can also ease acute pain.
  • Regular walking is good. Walking ensures that the muscles don't tense up too much and are supplied with blood.
  • Arnica flower compresses can aid the healing process. They are anti-inflammatory, relieve pain and promote blood circulation.
  • Ointments or tablets made from devil's claw can also ease the pain.

What not to do when you have lumbago

In the acute phase, it's also advisable to avoid bending or rotating too much or lifting objects. However, patients shouldn't lie completely still either.

Gentle exercise can help muscles become supple and loosened.
Prof. Dr. med. Oliver Nic Hausmann from the Neuro and Spine Centre Central Switzerland

Typical symptoms

  • Sudden strong and stabbing pain in the lumbar spine.
  • Because of the acute pain in the small of the back, sufferers can hardly move or not move at all.
  • As a result, the back muscles tense up which forces patients to adopt a position that relieves the pain. Often it's almost impossible to stretch the back completely and the person is stuck in a forward bent position.
  • This, in turn, causes their back muscles to tighten even more and the pain in the lower back to intensify.
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Common causes of acute lumbago

In most cases, lumbago can be attributed to an extremely tense and hardened back musculature. Strained muscles or a blocked joint in the lumbar spine can also be a cause.

This back pain is often triggered simply by a careless movement or an incorrect strain on the body that has occurred during sports or in everyday activities like lifting objects, bending down, turning the torso, or getting up from the sofa.

Lumbago or slipped disc?

Lumbago is an umbrella term for acute back pain. Another possible cause of the pain could be a slipped disc. Osteoarthritis or vertebral fractures can also be a reason for acute lumbago.

Treating lumbago

Lumbago is extremely painful but, in most cases, eases after a few days. However, it’s important to find out what is causing this acute back pain.


Painkillers and muscle-relaxing medication can help patients return to their normal activities. However, this kind of therapy should only be used on the advice of a family doctor and only for a short time.


In many cases, doctors also alleviate the pain with an injection, usually a cortisol injection. However, it doesn’t solve the cause of the problem but only combats the symptoms.

Prevent lumbago with simple exercises

Exercise is very important to prevent acute lumbago as it keeps the muscles strong and supple. Of key importance is a strong core: we protect our spine if we can stabilise our core muscles when performing abrupt movements or when lifting or carrying heavy loads.

When to see a doctor?

These exercises offer short-term pain relief only. If the pain doesn't ease even with medication and lasts longer than a week, or even gets worse, you should be treated by a doctor. The same applies if the pain radiates into the legs or you feel a tingling sensation or numbness.

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