Lumbago is a generic term used to describe nonspecific lower back pain. It is an antiquated name for the condition and is really not used much in diagnostic medicine anymore. The diagnostic term specifically describes a condition of lower back pain thought to have been brought on by bad posture and an over exposure to cold, damp, rainy, foggy or wet conditions. Obviously, this diagnosis comes from a far less enlightened time in the back pain industry.
I know it is difficult to imagine that medical care was actually much worse than it is now, but when this condition was actively diagnosed, doctors were really guessing at why patients had pain from virtually every symptomatic condition known to humankind.
Foggy outside? Sure, back pain makes sense...
Sneezing, coughing and fever were sometimes associated symptoms of this condition. Basically, this diagnosis was made to describe back ache that was associated with a common cold or flu. The discomfort was theorized to be caused by lower back muscle pain.
Modern medicine now realizes that this diagnosis does not describe a back pain condition at all. The name fits a set of symptoms, similar to muscular back pain, that accompanied various other common ailments. If you have the flu now, you might expect to have some minor back ache. Years ago, you might have thought you had back pain combined with a cough and fever. It is all simply a matter of looking at the same sickness in 2 completely different ways.
This dorsopathy condition was thought to be closely related to rheumatism. That is another diagnosis that is no longer actively made. Rheumatism described non-specific ailments of the skin, joints, bones, muscles, and organs. Basically, if you were sick often many years ago, odds are that you were considered rheumatic.
Modern medicine has come a long way towards diagnosing much more specific problems, diseases and conditions. In fact, it may have gone too far forward in its purely anatomical thinking, since now medicine is a diagnostic machine which often makes drastic and sometimes uncorrectable mistakes when pronouncing the source of a person's suffering.
I have said it many times... One small step forward, two giant leaps back.
If you are a grandpa or grandma, you might very well remember this diagnosis being made quite often. If you think you have this condition still, I would recommend going to a modern doctor to get a thorough check up and accurate diagnosis.
If your doctor says that you have lumbago… Run.
Run fast and don’t look back. Odds are, that doctor will want to treat your pain with snake oil and bleed you with leeches.
Seriously, I do still get letters from some less developed parts of our planet where this diagnosis is still actively considered valid. I hope that these patients have access to better care and more enlightened methods of diagnosis and treatment soon. It is a responsibility shared by all of us to ensure that they do.