Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic

Physical Therapy for Lower Back Pain

Anyone who has experienced lower back pain knows how frustrating and debilitating it can be. Lower back pain is very common among adults and is often caused by overuse and muscle strain or injury. Regardless of what's causing your lower back pain, you should consider physical therapy exercises as a treatment option.


The goals of physical therapy are to reduce pain, improve function and prevent further recurrences. There are different forms of physical therapy that include:


Passive physical therapy
Although the emphasis on a good back rehab program is to return bodily function through activities, there are instances where the use of "passive modalities" is helpful. Passive modalities refer to the application of some form of heat, cold or electricity to the body to reduce pain. They are considered a passive therapy because the recipient isn’t required to actively participate. Modalities are beneficial in the early stages of acute back pain, but should be used in conjunction with other, more active forms of physical therapy once the therapy treatments progress. The most common forms of passive modalities include:

  • Heat packs
  • Ultrasound
  • Cryotherapy (cold therapy)
  • Iontophoresis (use of electrical current)

Active physical therapy
As the physical therapy program progresses, you should focus more on active physical therapy rather than modalities. Generally, a patient's back exercise regimen should incorporate a blend of the following:

  • Flexibility exercises:  Stretching can be extremely helpful for those who have lower back pain. It not only combats your stiff muscles by restoring flection movement, but it also improves certain postures and positions necessary to regulate back pain.
  • Strengthening exercises:  Once the pain in the back stabilizes, it’s time to incorporate strength building exercises into the routine. The abdominals, spine extenders and legs are important to strengthen so you can lift items properly from the floor.
  • Aerobic conditioning:  Aerobic-conditioning activities help the body bring nutrients to structures in the spine. In general, walking, training on the elliptical, and riding a bicycle are all good aerobic exercises to choose from.

While there are many other physical therapy program combinations that you can do, a program that is active in nature and focused on helping you better understand your back pain is ideal. Finding the right physical therapy plan for you will help return you to the pain-free, active and healthy lifestyle you deserve.