Physiotherapy and exercises

Low back pain

For some people, low back pain can be a long-lasting condition. 

Keeping as active as possible can help you to recover and do the things that are important to you.

An important message is ‘hurt does not equal harm’.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) can help you return to your usual activities.

Sometimes people find that their pain can increase when they start to exercise again or if they do too much in one go. If exercise causes pain that you cannot tolerate, you need to pace your activity.

  1. Recognise how much you have managed to do recently and use this as a starting place.
  2. Try to break down tasks into smaller steps and give yourself a rest period between activity.
  3. Then try to build up your activity gradually over time.

How physiotherapy can help

A physiotherapist usually spends time talking with you and learning about your personal experience of back pain. They examine you and plan the best treatment for you.

After this, physiotherapy might give you reassurance and useful tips. It can help you with exercise and with any concerns you have.

Exercise might form an important part of your recovery. Your physiotherapist can give you exercises to improve your fitness, confidence in movement and strength.

Exercise can also lower stress and tension, improve your mood and help you to sleep better.

Low back pain exercises

You can do the following exercises early on to help you get moving. If you need any more information about these exercises, please speak to your physiotherapist.

Knee rolls

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your back pressed against the floor and your knees bent, slowly drop your knees down to one side. Bring your knees back up and roll them over to the other side.

Knee hugs

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up towards you and use your arms round the back of your knee to hug it to your chest.

You can do one knee followed by the next, or do both at the same time.

Back extensions

Lie on the floor on your front, with your chest and head up, using your forearms flat on the ground to support you. You can also use your hands flat on the floor to push and lift your upper body further from the ground. 

Bottom to heels stretch

Start on your hands and knees, with your back straight. Slowly ease back so your bottom rests on your feet, your arms are straight in front of you and your head is down so you look at the floor.


Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out. Slowly bend your knees as if you're sitting down, with your arms out in front of you for balance. Come back up to a standing position. 

Leaflet number: 4876/VER1
Date published: December 2019
Next review: December 2022

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the physiotherapy department.

Phone: 020 7188 5094 Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm.

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