Physical Therapy and Low Back Pain

At any given time, about 25% of people in the United States report having low back pain within the past 3 months. In most cases, low back pain is mild and disappears on its own. For some people, back pain can return or hang on, leading to a decrease in quality of life, or even to disability.

If your low back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should visit your local emergency department immediately:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Numbness in the groin or inner thigh
  • Recurrent – acute symptoms come back
  • Chronic – pain lasting longer than 3 months.

There are 3 different types of low back pain:

  • Acute – pain lasting less than 3 months
  • Recurrent – acute symptoms come back
  • Chronic – pain lasting longer than 3 months.


Physical therapists can teach you how to use the following strategies to prevent back pain:

  • Use good body positioning at work, home, or during leisure activities.
  • Keep the load close to your body during lifting.
  • Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen—staying active can help to prevent injuries. If you are having low back pain right now:
  • Stay active, and do as much of your normal routine as possible (bed rest for longer than a day can slow down your recovery).
  • If your pain lasts more than a few days or gets worse, schedule an appointment to see your physical therapist.
  • Manual therapy
  • Specific strengthening and flexibility exercises
  • Education
  • Use of ice or heat treatments or electrical stimulation to help relieve pain
  • Ask for help before lifting heavy objects.
  • Training for proper lifting, bending, and sitting; for doing chores both at work and in the
  • Assistance in creating a safe and effective physical activity program

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