Expert Guide to Lower Back Pain Relief: Tips & Exercises

Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

In physical therapy, we are often asked to clarify the symptoms related to lower back pain.  Patients want to know if the pain that they have is serious or can they treat it on their own at home.  The answer to that question is not simple.  We hope that in this article we will try to help you understand more about pain in your lower back. 

The lower back contains numerous structures including:

  • Ligaments
  • Bones
  • Tendons
  • Nerves

Highlighted spinal discs showing back lower pain. JOI Rehab Lower Back Pain

These structures contain pain receptors which can cause various symptoms. When you injure your back, pain is the main reason that you have to stop your normal activities.  The type and intensity of the pain is usually related to specific structures in your back. Here are some examples of lower back pain symptoms:

  • Achy and dull pain.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Local soreness or tenderness with touch.
  • Pain that moves down one leg or in the groin, buttock or upper thigh.
  • Stiffness and difficulty moving due to pain.
  • Tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations.
  • Numbness or weakness.
  • Sharp pain especially with certain movements.

What is Lower Back Pain?

The quick answer is that lower back pain refers to any pain or discomfort experienced in the low back.  The low back is also known as the lumbar spine. This area supports most of the upper body’s weight. Usually, this specific type of back pain is extremely common and affects about 80 percent of adults around the world. Luckily for us, there are many lower back pain remedies to alleviate or eliminate lower back pain.

Often, it is hard to tell if your back pain is the source of the pain or is it pain in your hips?  That is why it is so important to be evaluated by a physician.  Painful hips and lower back pain often can occur together. 

What are the Causes of Pain in Lower Back

The causes of lower back pain can become complicated.  Often, patient wait too long to see a doctor or therapist after their injury.  Most people will try to struggle with lower back pain and make the condition worse. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it should be addressed before it gets worst. The most frequent causes of lower back pain are:

  • Strained Ligaments or Muscle Tissues
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Herniated Disks
  • Disc Degeneration
  • Radiculopathy
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • SI joint Dysfunction
  • Pulled Muscle in Back

Lower Back Pains

If you have a pain in your lower back, the following injuries and conditions are most likely the cause of this pain.  After learning about the causes of your pain, it is important to make some changes in your life to treat this pain or to prevent the pain from getting worse.  

How do I know if my Lower Back Pain is Serious?

If you feel stiffness and difficulty moving due to pain or a sharp pain especially with certain movements. This could insinuate that you have a serious condition causing you pain in the lower back. If you experience these symptoms you should consult with your primary care physician. 

Strained Ligaments or Muscle Tissues

This happens when you improperly lift heavy objects, twist your back or overstretch.  The ligaments in the spine provide support to the bony structures of the spine.  The muscles and tendons of the spine provide dynamic movement.  When injured the muscles and tendons can spasm to protect the spine. 

Click to read about lower back muscle anatomy and lower back pain.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows from degenerative changes.  It places pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This issue can lead to pain, numbness, leg weakness and sensory loss due to a pinched nerves in your lower back. 

MRI image of disc herniation causing compression of the central spinal canal with Stenosis or lower back pain. JOI RehabSpinal Stenosis

Spinal Structure Issues

Congenital anomalies of the spine can cause lower back pain as they upset weight distribution and strain tissues, ligaments, and nerves. Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and lordosis, an abnormally accentuated arch in the lower back

Herniated or Ruptured Discs

When a disc in the lumbar area herniates or ruptures, its inner layer pushes through its think outer layer. This can cause pain in the back and down the leg. The herniated disc may compress nerve structures in the spine. Disc herniations can heal with physical therapy in most people. Disc degeneration may be a cause of lower back pains. JOI RehabLower Back Pain from Disc Degeneration

Disc Degeneration

Disc degeneration increased your chances of having spinal problems and can lead to distressing lower back pain.  Discs begin to change due to many factors such as age, smoking and previous injuries. 


Radiculopathy describes the pain that results when when irritation in the low back cause pain to travel down the buttocks, hip and leg.  The goal in therapy is to decrease this pain or symptom first.  Centralized low back pain is better than having radiculopathy. 


A common form of radiculopathy is sciatica. This causes sharp and burning lower back pain, accompanied by pain through the buttocks and down one leg. The symptoms of Sciatica can even reaching the bottom of the feet.

Sciatica can lead to lower back pain JOI RehabLower Back Pain from Sciatica
Arthritis of the Spine

Inflammatory diseases like arthritis cause an irritation of the joints of the low back pain.  There are different forms of arthritis which can affect the spine.  Arthritis in the spine is often labelled Spondylosis.

SI Joint Dysfunction

The joints where the spine attach to the pelvis are called the Sacroiliac joints.  SI joint dysfunction can cause pain in the Lower back and legs.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options to Treat Lower Back Pain

Depending on your symptoms, medical history, physical state, your MD may recommend several nonsurgical treatment options to treat lower back pain. 

First, your MD may recommend having x-rays, MRI or CT Scans to help pinpoint the actual reason for your lower back pain. Sometimes your condition can be easily managed by over-the-counter medication, ice packs and heating pads. Also, your MD may recommend a course of physical therapy. These simple stretches can certainly make a big difference in your management of lower back pain. 

Single Knee to Chest for Lower Back Pain JOI RehabSingle Knee to Chest Exercise

standing McKenzie exercise for a painful lower backStanding McKenzie Exercise

In physical therapy, there are two common forms of exercises for patients. Williams flexion exercises or McKenzie extension exercises.  Therapists will often use both approaches based on which exercise help control the pain and spasms in the back.  The next stage in therapy is to improve flexibility and to strengthen the core muscles. 

Physical therapy will often work with patients to strengthen their core muscles in order to alleviate back pain. Lower back stretches, as well as lower extremity stretches, may help relieve your lower back pain.

There are some other things that you can do to help prevent low back pain:

  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Remain Active
  • Stretch before doing activities like yardwork or sports.
  • Make sure your mattress on your bed provides the correct support.

If you want to learn more, please read what is a pinched nerve in your lower back? and Top 5 Tips for Herniated Disc Pain.

Low Back Pain Physical Therapy

 Our website medical library has several articles on all of the injuries listed below.  To learn more about Robotic Spine Surgery, please read Robotic Spine Surgery JOI.

We are looking to grow our Massage Therapy Program, if you are a licensed massage therapist, please apply here.

To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.

JOI and JOI Rehab

JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is a new option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments.  Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.

To schedule an appointment with a JOI Spine Specialist, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

By: Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT

Skip to content