Back pain

Back pain is very common, especially pain affecting your lower back. 6 in 10 adults will be affected by lower back pain at some point throughout their lives.

If you have back pain, physiotherapy can quickly help to improve your back and get you back to normal movement. It can also help you to make changes that reduces your chances of hurting it again. Physiotherapy uses a wide range of effective treatments and techniques to help with back pain, as well as offering long term advice on looking after your back.

Why see a physiotherapist for back pain?

If you have back pain that causes you pain and problems with movement or doesn’t seem to be improving after a few weeks, physiotherapy can help. Physiotherapists will focus on restoring your movement to your body as a whole. They will look at how your nerves, muscles and skeletal structure are effected, and how treatments such as exercise and manual therapy, hands on therapies can help. An active part in your recovery is encouraged rather than just relying on passive hands on treatments.

The type of back pain physiotherapy can help with are:

Non-specific back pain

This is the most common type of back pain and often there is no specific cause. It can be a pulled muscle or ligament in your lower back, neck or upper back.

It may have been an event or movement that started your back pain or it may have come on gradually. We use our backs all the time so there can be lots of reasons for pain. Everyday tasks can cause non-specific back pain such as:

  • poor posture whilst working
  • gardening
  • household chores such as bending and carrying laundry
  • pulling or straining a muscle during exercise
  • standing for too long

Specific back pain

Sometimes there can be specific damage to parts of your back or neck caused from a fall or   an accident or it can be caused by a specific condition such as:

  • Osteoarthritis – this causes joints to feel painful and stiff, not just in your back but also your hands, knees and hips. In your back, your neck or lower back are more commonly affected. You can find out more here
  • Sciatic pain – this is pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back through your hip and bum and down your leg. It is most commonly caused when a herniated disc in your spine bulges out of its’ normal shape and presses on the nerve. It can also be caused by bones spurs on the spine or narrowing of the spine which compress the nerve. Most people will get better within a few weeks
  • Degenerative disc disease – as you get older, the discs located between your vertebrae in your back wear down or can be damaged. It most often affects the neck or lower back


Depending on your diagnosis, your physiotherapists will recommend different treatment options to help improve flexibility, movement and strength in your back. The physiotherapists working for PhysioNet Bristol are all hands-on therapists that use manual techniques such as mobilisation; slow and gentle movements to help stretch out your spine and restore normal movement. This will always be used in combination with active therapies, so an exercise programme outside of your appointment which will include stretches and strengthen exercises.

See all clinics that provide Back pain