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physical therapy for low back pain relief

Once you have experienced an episode of low back pain that lasts two or more weeks or becomes recurring, physical therapy is recommended. Sometimes physical therapy is recommended even sooner depending on the severity because of its benefits in the acute phase. Ultimately, the goal of physical therapy treatment is to alleviate pain, restore function, and provide education to maintain and prevent future injury. That's why physical therapy for low back pain is ideal for long term recovery.

Physical Therapy Program For Low Back Pain

Using physical therapy for low back pain can be beneficial, especially when incorporated early on. Re-training the backs mobility, flexibility and strength helps prevent any long term low back conditions, like sciatica for example. The ideal physical therapy program for low back pain involves passive therapy that reduces pain and gets patients to a manageable level for more advanced therapy and active exercises

Passive physical therapy for low back pain

Passive therapy may include electrical stimulation, ultrasound, ice and heat packs, and basic modalities for manageability. Hot and cold packs are often used because they reduce muscle spasms and inflammation of the lumbar area. Electrical stimulation on the low back modulates the pain by overriding the pain signals that are sent to the brain. Ultrasound is like a deep-heat technique that works really well for the acute phase and can also enhance soft tissue healing.

Active physical therapy for low back pain

Active exercises are the most impressionable part of the rehabilitation because it restores function and mobility that progresses over time. It is this functional rehab that is beneficial for not only the back, but the whole body. To be effective, the program should be individualized so it is important that the patient is evaluated by a spine specialist first such as a chiropractor or a licensed physical therapist before they get started. For treating back pain the most common exercises performed by a physical therapist are McKenzie exercises and lumbar stabilization techniques. McKenzie exercises are based on the McKenzie Method which is an overall program of assessment, treatment exercises, and prevention strategies. Lumbar stabilization techniques are progressive from beginning to advanced such as:

  • From static (lying) to dynamic (standing or jumping)
  • From resisting gravity to resisting additional outside force
  • From predictable to unpredictable movements
  • From individual components of a movement to the complete range of motion in a movement

Lumbar Stabilization Exercises for Low Back Pain

Another area that a physical therapist will focus on, aside from directly training the back muscles, will be lumbar stabilization. This is achieved by exercising muscles in the legs and pelvis that are key components to lumbar support. Below are some examples of lumbar stabilization exercises that are great for reducing low back pain.

Hamstring Stretch:

A passive exercise using little muscle effort. Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet on the floor. Find the neutral spine position and maintain it while slowly straightening one leg and lifting the heel toward the ceiling while supporting the back of the thigh with both hands. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat with other leg. Do 3 repetitions. The leg muscles can be made static, too, by using a wall to straighten the leg while resting the leg muscles.

Pelvic Tilt:

An active exercise from one position, where the abdominal muscles are isolated and used to move the spine. Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten stomach muscle and pull the lower back to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Do 3 to 5 repetition.


If you are suffering from low back pain whether it is acute or chronic, seeking physical therapy treatment along with other non-invasive treatments like chiropractic care and decompression can help you avoid surgery. The sooner you tend to your pain, the more likely you'll recover quickly. If you're experiencing any form of low back pain, it's important to consult with a doctor early on to begin rehabilitative treatments.


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Posted in: Physical Therapy