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A Physiotherapist’s guide to exercises for lower back pain

A Physiotherapist’s guide to exercises for lower back pain | Benenden Hospital

Many people experience lower back pain at some point in their life. However, if your back pain is more persistent, you might be referred to a Physiotherapist for assessment and treatment.

Jordan Dehara, our lead Physiotherapist, discusses what happens when you visit our physiotherapy department for lower back pain and shares some easy-to-do exercises to help relieve and prevent it recurring.

How can I manage lower back pain?

Keeping active and exercising can help manage lower back pain for several reasons. The most important being that your skeletal system is supported by your muscles, if your muscles remain strong then your bones will be supported. This will make it easier to perform your daily tasks such as sitting and standing from a chair, getting out of bed, or playing sports like tennis, running or swimming.

When should I see a Physiotherapist for back pain?

If your back pain lasts longer than two weeks, and you're unable to manage it yourself, that’s a good time to make an appointment with a Physiotherapist or speak to a GP.

What happens when I see a Physiotherapist for back pain?

At Benenden Hospital, your hour-long physiotherapy session gives us an opportunity to find out what problems you’re experiencing with your back and work out what the cause of you’re the pain might be. We’ll ask when your back pain started, how it started and identify potential triggers such as activities or tasks that aggravate the pain.

We’ll ask a series of questions to rule out abnormalities that may require further investigations or alternative treatments. In these situations, we’d make a clinical judgment as to whether you need to be referred on to a specialist or for a scan.

We’ll assess movement and strength in your lower back and - if you suffer with any nerve symptoms like pins and needles or numbness – try to find out where this is coming from; for example, if they're coming from the centre of your back or the peripheral nerves that run throughout your body, normally down your legs.

Following on from that, we’ll assess the joints above and below your lower back, to make sure that there are no symptoms radiating from other structures such as your hip, your sacroiliac joint or your upper back.

Finally, we’ll discuss treatment with you. This could include lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol intake, advice on how to manage your symptoms and a home exercise program.

What’s the importance of home exercise when treating lower back pain?

To ensure that your physiotherapy is successful, and you get a positive outcome from the sessions, we’ll encourage you to complete a home exercise programme. These exercises should only take a few minutes to complete but if you do them regularly, little and often and within your limits, you should notice improvements.

Jordan’s exercises for back pain

Floor-based exercises

1. Lying trunk twist

  • Perform this exercise on the floor or a bed
  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor
  • Extend your arms out to your sides for stability
  • Rotate your legs to the limit of your ability, making sure that the opposite shoulder remains on the floor
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side

2. Arm openings

  • Perform this exercise on the floor or a bed
  • Lie on your side with your legs bent for stability and your head resting on a small cushion
  • Straighten your arms out in front of your body, with one arm on top of the other
  • Raise your top arm towards the ceiling, followed by your head and upper body
  • Continue rotating your spine as you lower the arm towards the floor
  • Slowly return to the starting position, allowing your head to follow the movement of your arm

Repeat this exercise on both sides.

3. Cat and camel pose

  • Start on your hands and knees with your back in a neutral position
  • Extend your back by lifting your head up and pushing your tailbone out, making a disc shape with your spine
  • Then flex your back by tucking your head and tailbone in and pulling your belly button in towards your spine
  • Hold this exercise in each position and repeat

Watch our floor-based exercise video here

Seated exercises for back pain

1. Trunk flexion

  • Sit upright in a chair with your hands on your knees
  • Slowly bend forward over your thighs, sliding your hands down the front of your shins as far as you can go
  • Hold this position and then slowly return to the upright position, using your hands to assist if you need to

2. Trunk rotation

  • Sit upright in a chair with your arms crossed over your chest
  • Rotate your body to one side and then the other, holding each position to feel a stretch through your torso
  • Use your arms on the back of the chair to pull yourself around further

Watch a video on seated exercises here.

Physiotherapy at Benenden Hospital

If you're recovering from injury or illness and need private physiotherapy treatment, our experienced and compassionate team of Physiotherapists can help with your recovery, supporting you in maintaining your independence. Book your Physiotherapy appointment online today.

Published on 31 March 2023