Banner Health Services  

Treatments for lower back pain


Cory Manton, is a physical therapist at the Rehabilitation Center at Banner Desert Medical Center.

Question: What is the treatment for acute lower back pain?

Answer: Lower back pain is a common reason for seeking medical attention. Symptoms can vary in severity, irritability and location which is why physical therapists have created a classification for low back pain, so they can best match treatment to a patient’s signs and symptoms.

There are three treatment classifications that have been well researched:

  • Manipulation
  • Stabilization
  • Specific Exercise

Spinal manipulation is a quick stretch to the lumbar region that can help decrease pain and restore motion. Patients who benefit from spinal manipulation include patients who have had pain for less than 16 days and those whose pain does not extend below the knee.

Patients with stiffness in the lumbar spine region or abnormal motion at the hips also might benefit.  Most often, therapists will recommend several active range of motion exercises after spinal manipulation that most often can be done at home.

If your pain is more like a sensation of bones or muscles ‘catching’ or difficulty returning to an upright posture after bending over, chances are your physical therapist will recommend stabilization exercises.

Stabilization exercises are used to control lumbar spine pain that is associated with uncoordinated movement.  By teaching the patient exercises that help contract the muscles around the spine, the patient may experience decreased pain.   

For patients with sciatica, or low back pain with leg pain that goes below the knee, specific exercises are necessary. Specific exercises include extension exercises that are intended to reduce their leg pain. 

Patients with a diagnosis of spinal stenosis may have increased back pain and leg pain with sustained standing and walking.  There symptoms may improve with sitting.  These patients specific exercise prescription would emphasize flexion exercises that would reduce their symptoms.

Just by describing the pain in the low back, a patient and physical therapist can determine the best classification of pain to create a treatment plan that helps.

Reviewed October 2010

Page Last Modified: 10/20/2010
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