Physiotherapy for Back Pain

A high proportion of the population will experience some sort of back pain at some point in their lives. Both specific and non-specific back pain are common complaints at the physiotherapy clinic, there are numerous different types and varying symptom sets.

Physiotherapy is a widely used form of treatment for back pain related issues. Patients may be referred to a physiotherapist by their GP, consultant or they may independently arrange an appointment. In cases of severe back pain, physiotherapy is often recommended as part of a wider pain management treatment program which can also include pain relief medication and in some cases, psychological support to help manage the impact of symptoms.

physiotherapy for back pain

About the Back

The back describes a large, complex area of the body made up of nerves, bones and soft tissue structures, all of which work together to provide support for the lower limbs and protection for the spinal cord, amongst other functions. When describing the back, it is typically divided into 4 regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back, around the chest area), lumbar (lower back) and the sacral region (the tail end of the spine – coccyx). The spinal column itself consists of 33 vertebrae stacked upon one another with intervertebral discs in between to prevent the vertebrae from grinding against one another. Cocooned inside the vertebrae is the spinal cord, which runs from the brain through to the lumbar region.

Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is generally categorised into mechanical or referred pain. Mechanical pain is described as pain only being experienced in the affected area, whereas referred pain radiates to another area of the body.

There are many potential causes which can result in back pain, some of which may be more obvious than others. These may include any one of the following: poor posture, injury, repetitive strain injury, disc herniation/degeneration, spinal stenosis, spondylosis, scoliosis, whiplash, frozen shoulder, infection, and tumours.


Accurate diagnosis plays a key role in defining a suitable treatment plan. A detailed medical history and a thorough examination are typically required. In some cases, further testing such as MRI, CT scan, X-ray and bloods can also be useful in highlighting any nerve compression, disc-related issues, fractures, tumours, signs of infection, inflammation or other abnormalities. For most people suffering from back pain, the first point of contact is often the GP or a physiotherapist. However, either practitioner may need to refer the patient for further testing to achieve an accurate diagnosis.


Over-the-counter pain relief medication (paracetamol and ibuprofen) combined with a physiotherapy course and remaining as active as the pain will allow, are recommended as the first line of treatment. With good management, back pain will often go away by itself. In some more severe cases, stronger medication or surgical intervention may be required, followed by rehabilitative physiotherapy.

Why Is Physiotherapy for Back Pain So Important?

Physiotherapy is a medically recognised form of treatment which can be highly beneficial to numerous conditions including back pain related issues. A well-trained back physiotherapist can help restore function and movement to the body following illness or injury, by examining how the muscles, joints, nerves, and bones have been affected and then deciding which manual therapies and exercises could help.

Treatment with a physiotherapist not only involves targeted exercises and specific hands-on manipulation, it also offers a tailored home exercise plan. This helps the patient to identify any factors which may have contributed towards the pain or injury, such as repetitive strain as a result of poor posture, or incorrect exercise technique and so forth. Patients may be offered advice on how to improve posture, and correct sitting techniques when working at a desk or sitting in a car for long periods. Regular physiotherapy can help to improve function and encourage patients to keep as active as possible – something extremely important for long-term wellbeing.

How We Can Help

Our physiotherapists are highly experienced, qualified professionals using research-based treatments proven to be valid and effective. Following a detailed initial assessment, your physiotherapist will devise an individualised treatment plan based on your requirements, deciding which exercises and other forms of treatment are suitable for your particular problem. This may include aerobic exercise, strengthening exercises and stretching exercises. This is often combined with manual therapies such as mobilisation and manipulation.

Some types of movement and exercise can make back pain worse. Your back physiotherapist will be able to help identify these, advising what not to do whilst suggesting alternative exercises which will help to relieve painful symptoms. It is important to note that physiotherapy is not a passive form of treatment, the patient is required to take an active role in their own rehabilitation. Our expertise, your effort!

For more information on our physiotherapy and our wider range of services, get in touch today.


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