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How Can Physical Therapy Help You Treat Low Back Pain

There are many treatment options available and Physical Therapy (PT) is one of them. Physical therapy can be effective at treating the symptoms associated with back pain such as loss of range of motion, strength, and difficulty performing daily and work related activities. PT can also help prevent future episodes of back pain by teaching core strength exercises, helping to maintain flexibility and demonstrating proper body mechanics (called “ergonomics”.)

Who is your Physical Therapist and how does it work?

Your PT will conduct a thorough examination and assessment and work with you to develop goals to help you improve function. A PT is considered a movement specialist and is licensed by the state. To find out more information vist the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association).
Most likely you will be given a series of exercises to treat your specific symptoms. In addition, a PT will educate you on ways to use your spine properly while sitting, standing and lifting.

Treatment options may include:

Flexibility Exercises:

The flexibility of several key muscle groups of the spine, hips and lower extremities impact the normal movement and healthy function of your spine. These muscle groups are:
  • hip flexors
  • hamstrings
  • gluteals
  • spine
  • piriformis
In general stretching should be performed gently. The stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds and repeated several times and on each side of the body if appropriate.

Core Strength:

Your body’s core muscles support and protect your spine. These muscles groups include hip, pelvic, abdominal and back muscles. Your physical therapist will work with you to identify the specific exercises needed strengthen the core muscles, and will instruct you in the proper techniques to safely start and progress with this program.







Aerobic Exercise:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.



Proper ergonomic design and practice is helpful in preventing injuries. Ergonomics involves being aware of proper sitting, standing or bending positions and safe lifting techniques. Ergonomics can involve equipment to assist with computer work, like a keyboard tray, an ergonomic mouse or an adjustable chair.


  • Lumbar support can be as easy as adding a small towel roll at the small of the back


  • PTs often recommend frequently changing your position (before symptom onset) so that you are not sitting, standing or bending too long. The amount of time will vary per person, but generally, try to change position or activity every 30 minutes.

Safe lifting techniques or body mechanics

  • Bending, lifting, pushing and pulling are necessary to our busy, active lives. Whether this involves work-related tasks such as lifting packages or transferring patients or home-related activated like childcare, yard work or putting away groceries.
  • Remember to maintain a straight back and bend your knees
  • Stay close to the object you are lifting/pushing/pulling
  • If possible, test out the weight of an object before you handle it.
Please visit The Duke Ergonomics Division for more details

Your physical therapist may also consider: