Physiotherapy for Back pain

Physiotherapy exercises for low back pain are simple exercises to improve stiffness, increase movement and reduce your back pain. It is usually a set of exercises that a therapist helps you with for your back pain.

Physiotherapy has both active and passive exercises.

Active exercises are exercises that you do yourself.

1) Aerobic Exercises:

These are exercises that gets you moving and your heart pumping fast. You take in a lot of oxygen and it is good for yuor body. Research shows that  20 – 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week improves muscle tone and function.

2) Stretching Exercises:

Stretching exercises as the name indicates stretches the muscles around your spine. It makes the muscles flexible. You will bend like a rubber!

3) Strengthening Exercises:

These exercises strengthen the muscles that hug your spine – muscles around the front, back and sides of your spine.

When will I need physiotherapy for my low back pain?

1) During a episode of back pain

Gentle stretches help you to move and not seize up.

2) After a steroid injections

Helps to mobilise your stiff back after the steroid injection has offered you good pain control.

3) After Spine Surgery

Therapist will take you through a program to get you back in action.

Back pain conditions - physiotherapy is useful here

1) Non-specific lower back pain

Back pain due to simple injuries and where no cause for the back pain is identified. This is the most common cause of low back pain. Physiotherapy gives you the techniques and tools to move your back into action in the correct way.

2) Degenerative Disc Disease

This is caused by ‘wear and tear’ due to ageing of your discs in your spine. The chemicals released by the ‘worn out’ discs causes stiffness of the muscles and soft tissues. Physiotherapy improves the blood flow into those muscles and soft tissues in your back. The circulation the blood flow helps remove the chemicals that are released by these ‘worn out’ discs.

3) Sciatica from prolapsed disc

The prolapsed disc presses on your spinal nerve as it comes out the spine to supply your leg. That is why the back pain spreads from your back to the buttock, back of the leg and to your foot. This is called ‘sciatica pain’. Physiotherapy for sciatica stretches the nerves in a controlled manner. It moves the joint of the spine and helps release the spinal nerve from where it is trapped.

4) Spinal stenosis

The space in the spinal canal narrows as your age advances and the canal becomes small and tight.  It causes a ‘block’ in the spinal canal and is called ‘Spinal Stenosis’. It grips the bunch of nerves lying in the spinal canal. The spinal nerves are squeezed during walking, standing and running. This causes back pain and leg pain.

Physiotherapy sessions offer the techniques to move your spine carefully during low back pain. It helps open up the tight spinal canal gently. We are talking a few millimetres here! But this makes a huge difference to the spinal nerves who have been crying in pain.

Gradually, your back pain and leg pain disappears as your spinal nerves are now happy.

Physiotherapy techniques used for low back pain

Active & Passive Techniques

1) Active Physiotherapy

Active therapies are exercises suggested by the physiotherapist that you will be able to do yourself in the comfort of your own home.

It has the advantage for these exercises to be done at your own pace and comfort. Active therapy exercises improves mobility, flexibility and strength of your lower back. These include:

  • Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises increases your heart rate and lasts for 30 minutes, for 4-5 times a week. These exercises help your mobility, balance, manage your weight and give you a sense of well being.

Examples of aerobic exercises are: exercises bikes, swimming, running and walking.

  • Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises stretches your muscles and ligaments around the spine to improve flexibility and reduce tension in the tissues supporting your spine.

For example you can lay on your back bend your knees and pull upwards gently and gradually towards your chest. See below for these exercises

  • Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises are those that focus on strengthening your core muscles around the spine. These core muscles wrap around your spine and provides stability to the spine in your day-to-day function.

Strengthening exercises are responsible for your good posture and the way you hold your body in different positions during sitting, standing and walking.

2) Passive Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists also offer manual hands-on techniques in combination with the above exercise programs. These are  mobilisation and manipulation therapy.

  • Manipulation Therapy

Here the physiotherapists ‘adjusts’ your spine with a small thrust of their hands on your spine. You will feel or hear a ‘pop’ and this may relieve your back pain.

  • Mobilisation Therapy

The physiotherapist during mobilisation therapy offers gentle and slow traction movements to stretch your spine. The mobilisation of the tissues around the spine offers back pain relief and improved range of movement.

Physiotherapy Exercises for Low Back Pain

Just a piece of general advice:

  • Do the stretch twice a day before breakfast and dinner.
  • Do not overdo them especially at the beginning.
  • Start these movements slowly and carefully.
  • Don’t get worried if these movements cause mild discomfort.
  • It lasts only a few minutes.

If the back pain or discomfort lasts more than 15 minutes, stop and do not do any further exercises till you see professional help.

Take time to do these exercises.

Physiotherapy exercises for low back pain really works.

“Black Disc” on MRI scan
Discs become inflamed, loses water and undergoes “wear and tear” changes.
This is called “DISC DEGENERATION”