Back Pain

If your back hurts, don't ignore the pain. Physiotherapists have the training to correctly assess the problem and provide safe, effective treatment. For rapid recovery, see your physiotherapist early.


Postural Stress
Poor posture stresses your spine. Ligaments are overstretched, muscles tire and joints and nerves are put under pressure.

Muscle Strains
Minor back muscle strains quickly improve on their own, but more severe strains will need physiotherapy treatment to relieve pain and promote healing.

Ligament Sprains
Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly makes them tear and bleed into surrounding tissues, causing swelling and pain. Motor vehicle and sporting accidents are common causes.

Disc Problems
Discs are anchored to the vertebrae, above and below, so they cannot 'slip' out of place. They can wear down with age, but most disc problems arise from injury. Discs can bulge (prolapse), herniate or even rupture.

The sciatic nerves run from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the back of your legs. Irritation anywhere along this pathway will cause pain in the back and legs.


Vertebral and facet joints can be affected by arthritis, causing degeneration and inflammation within the joint and the growth of bony spurs on the edges of the vertebrae.

Everyday activities can trigger back pain Everyday activities can trigger back pain.
How Your Back Works

Your back is a complex system of interlocking components:

bullet Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spinal column.
bullet Discs separate the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers.
bullet Facet joints between the vertebrae guide spinal movement.
bullet Ligaments hold the vertebrae together.
bullet Muscles are attached to the bones. They control and produce movement.

How your back works

Here is some useful advice to help you prevent back pain:

With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the hips and knees. Grip the load firmly and hold it close to your body, tighten your stomach muscles and use the strong muscles of your legs to lift. Keep your back as straight as possible. Avoid twisting - turn by using your feet, not your back.

Think tall: chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head level. Posture should be stable, balanced and relaxed when sitting, walking or standing.

Don't stay seated for too long - stand up, stretch and walk around. The right back support will also help.

Stay in shape - healthy body-weight is less strain on your back. Your physiotherapist can show you how to keep your back flexible and strong with correct back and abdominal exercises.

Good support from your car seat will prevent back pain. If you need more lower back support, use a lumbar roll or a rolled-up towel.

Your mattress should be firm enough to support your natural shape.

How Physiotherapists Can Help

Almost all Australian doctors refer patients with back pain to physiotherapists in preference to other health practitioners. Depending upon the cause and type of pain, physiotherapists treat back pain in a variety of ways:
bullet advice and early activation ( recent research indicates that one of the most important treatments for low back pain is that the patient is encouraged to move)
bullet mobilisation/ manipulative physiotherapy
bullet McKenzie therapy
bullet specific stabilisation exercises
bullet general exercises
bullet traction
bullet ergonomic advice
Manipulative physiotherapists have post-graduate training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders and have more ways to help your back move well and stay well.

Ongoing 'maintenance treatments' should not be required once your back has been successfully treated by a physiotherapist. If severe pain persists, other causes will need to be investigated. Your physiotherapist can order x-rays or recommend that you see a doctor.

Finding a Physiotherapist

A doctor's referral is not required to see a physiotherapist in private practice. Physiotherapists in private practice are listed in the Yellow Pages under 'Physiotherapists'. Physiotherapists also work in public hospitals and community health centres.

A proportion of treatment costs is rebatable under all higher table health insurance schemes.
APA Top of page

Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association
- -