Will physiotherapy help lower back pain
Updated: Apr 26
Read on to find out if a physiotherapist can help with your lower back pain
The lower back is the source of discomfort, pain, and disability for millions of people. In fact, most people will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Often, a physio can help with back pain, including lower back pain.
There are many kinds of lower back pain — from long-lasting to short term, with a whole host of different causes — and a physiotherapist is an excellent first port of call if this is a problem you’re experiencing. From diagnosis to treatment, read on to see how physiotherapy will help with the lower back pain you’re experiencing.
Struggling with lower back pain? Physiotherapy can help. At the Align Health Collective, we have lower back pain physiotherapists ready to help and expertise.
What is lower back pain?
Lower back pain is a common condition that affects the lumbar region of the spine, which includes the five vertebrae located between the ribcage and pelvis. The lumbar region is responsible for providing support to the upper body and allowing for movement, making it particularly susceptible to strain and injury. There are several causes of lower back pain, including poor posture, muscle strain, herniated discs, and degenerative conditions such as arthritis.
Symptoms of lower back pain can vary widely, depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. Common symptoms of lower back pain include stiffness, numbness or tingling in the legs, and limited range of motion. Pain may be felt in the lower back or may radiate to other areas of the body, such as the hips, thighs, or feet. In severe cases, lower back pain can significantly impact daily activities, making it difficult to stand, walk, or perform simple tasks.
Lower back pain can be acute, meaning it comes on suddenly and lasts for a short period, or it can be chronic, meaning it persists for several weeks or months. Acute lower back pain is often the result of an injury or strain, while chronic lower back pain is usually associated with a degenerative condition or long-term muscle imbalances.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a form of healthcare that focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of physical impairments, disabilities, and pain. Physiotherapists are highly trained healthcare professionals who use various techniques and exercises to help their patients achieve optimal physical function and health.
Physiotherapy for lower back pain typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and education. Manual therapy techniques may include mobilization or manipulation of the spine to help improve joint mobility and reduce pain. Exercise programs are also commonly used to help strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and improve posture. Additionally, education on proper lifting techniques, ergonomics, and other lifestyle factors may be provided to help prevent future episodes of lower back pain.
The specific techniques used by physiotherapists to treat lower back pain may vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, a physiotherapist may use different techniques to treat lower back pain caused by muscle strain versus that caused by a herniated disc.
Physiotherapy has been found to be highly effective in treating lower back pain. A recent study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that physiotherapy was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with chronic lower back pain. Additionally, physiotherapy has been shown to be a safe and cost-effective alternative to more invasive treatments, such as surgery or medication.
What causes lower back pain?
Lower back pain has many causes. Even in a single patient, there may be many contributing factors. Often, the problem is musculoskeletal, and there’s no serious structural damage that needs to be addressed. Infrequently, there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed by a medical specialist or even requires surgery.
Different causes of lower back pain can include:
- Sciatic pain
- Disc injuries
- Referred pain
- Ligament sprains
- Injury or strains to muscles
- Irregularities of the skeleton-like scoliosis
Will a physio help my lower back pain?
There is a vast body of academic literature to support physiotherapy practices. A physio will be able to draw on years of training and experience from institutions of higher learning.
Diagnosis is the first thing a physio does to help back pain. After identifying the issue and finding the cause of your discomfort, a physio will help lower back pain by finding an appropriate treatment.
While physiotherapy can help with most kinds of lower back pain, if it turns out that the cause is more serious, a physiotherapist will be able to refer you to the right kind of medical practitioner to get the help you need.
What will a physiotherapist do to treat lower back pain?
Physiotherapists have several treatments they can use for the treatment of lower back pain.
- Other kinds of manual therapy, like manipulating joints
- An exercise program that involves a range of motion and mobility exercises
- Exercises that will strengthen the trunk and leg
Additionally, many physiotherapists will also use treatments like:
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
The benefits of seeing a physiotherapist for lower back pain
Seeing a physiotherapist for lower back pain can provide numerous benefits. One of the primary benefits of seeing a physiotherapist is that they can assess and diagnose the underlying cause of the pain. This is crucial in determining the most appropriate treatment plan for the specific type of lower back pain.
Once a diagnosis has been made, a physiotherapist can then create a personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of the patient. This may include a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and education tailored to the individual.
In addition to providing personalized treatment, physiotherapists can also help patients manage their pain and improve their quality of life. Chronic lower back pain can significantly impact daily activities, and physiotherapy can help patients regain function and return to their normal activities.
Physiotherapy for lower back pain is also a safe and non-invasive treatment option. Unlike more invasive treatments, such as surgery or medication, physiotherapy has minimal side effects and does not require recovery time.
Seeing a physiotherapist for lower back pain can provide numerous benefits, including personalized treatment, pain management, and improved quality of life. If you are experiencing lower back pain, it is recommended to see a physiotherapist for an assessment and personalized treatment plan.
Exercises and stretches for lower back pain
Physiotherapists may use a variety of exercises and stretches to help alleviate lower back pain. The specific exercises prescribed will depend on the underlying cause of the pain and the individual needs of the patient.
Strengthening exercises can help to improve the strength and endurance of the muscles supporting the spine. Some common strengthening exercises for lower back pain include:
Bridge exercise: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then lower your hips back down to the ground.
Clamshell exercise: Lie on your side with your knees bent and feet together. Keeping your feet touching, lift your top knee as high as you can without moving your hips. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then lower your knee back down.
Superman exercise: Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Lift your arms, legs, and chest off the ground at the same time, as if you are flying like Superman. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then lower back down.
Stretching exercises can help to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Some common stretching exercises for lower back pain include:
Knee-to-chest stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Slowly bring one knee up to your chest and hold it with your hands for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other knee.
Hamstring stretch: Lie on your back with your legs extended. Place a towel or strap around the ball of one foot and gently pull your leg towards your chest. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
Cat-cow stretch: Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling. Exhale as you round your spine, tucking your chin to your chest and bringing your tailbone towards your knees. Repeat for 5-10 breaths.
Preventing lower back pain
While physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for lower back pain, it is always better to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place. Some ways to prevent lower back pain include:
Maintain good posture: Poor posture can put unnecessary strain on the muscles supporting the spine, leading to lower back pain. Make an effort to sit and stand up straight, keeping your shoulders back and your feet flat on the ground.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and reduce the risk of lower back pain. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, most days of the week.
Lift properly: Improper lifting technique can put unnecessary strain on the lower back muscles and increase the risk of injury. When lifting heavy objects, always bend at the knees and use your legs, not your back, to lift.
Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can put additional strain on the muscles supporting the spine, leading to lower back pain. Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Practice stress management: Stress can cause tension in the muscles supporting the spine, leading to lower back pain. Practice stress management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, to reduce the risk of lower back pain.
Are there useful physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain?
There are a variety of physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain. Australia has a very high standard of physiotherapy training and qualification, so if you’re encouraged to do exercises by your physio, you can trust that there’s a high degree of research and testing behind them.
Exercises might include things like:
- Leg stretches
- Yoga poses, like the child’s pose or cobra pose
- Knee to chest stretches
These stretches and exercises may not be right for you. Because there are so many different causes of back pain, it’s important that you get the treatment that is targeted to your specific case. Doing inappropriate exercises for your back discomfort may end up doing more harm than good.
Start by having a trained physiotherapist examine your back. When you meet up with a physiotherapist and they can evaluate your condition, they’ll be able to draw up a tailored treatment plan of exercises to help with your specific situation.
Get the right physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain. In Victoria, Australia, come and see the team at Align Health Collective to get your lower back in shape.