Body map Lower back pain

Lower back pain

You are not alone. Low back pain is very common and usually not serious. It affects about 1 in 6 Australians every year and is usually caused by a simple strain of the muscles or joints in the back.

Book an osteo appointment to talk about your lower back pain

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Common lower back conditions

Low back pain is often caused by a simple strain of muscles or joints, in the back, usually at a time when we are more vulnerable – for example, when we are run down, tired, stressed, tense, sad, inactive or overactive. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle can also lead to poor posture and musculoskeletal problems, which may result in low back pain.

Generally, acute (short term) back pain resolves without the need for ongoing treatment or surgery.

Your osteo will provide information and advice about your lifestyle and daily activities. This may help you to identify activities that may prevent or help to manage pain, especially if certain movements or activities make the pain worse. You may be given exercises to do at home.

In most cases, scans (X-rays) are usually not needed.

Patient resources

As well as providing treatment, your osteo’s role is to help you to help yourself by providing advice and education to improve your general health and wellbeing.

Self-care tips for back pain

  • Avoid bed rest – it can do more harm than good as it can lead to shortened or weaker muscles, and joint stiffness
  • Stay active as much as possible
  • Stay at work, even if only on restricted duties. If required, discuss a return-to-work plan with your employer
  • Pace yourself – try to do a similar amount of exercise every day
  • Ice or heat packs may help in the first few weeks
  • Learn about your pain – identify which activities make your pain worse or better and change your activities to suit
  • Seek help early if you are fearful, anxious, depressed or stressed
  • Relaxation and mindfulness strategies may help you cope
  • Stop smoking – it can increase your chances of developing back pain

Further information

Better Health Channel

NPS – 10 things you should know about back pain

Musculoskeletal Australia

Australian Pain Management Association

My Back Pain

What the evidence says

Manual therapy, either alone or in combination with exercises, needling therapy, or GP care, may provide some relief from short term (acute) or long term (chronic) back pain. Relief may occur fairly quickly or in the days after treatment (Bronfort 2010, Hayden 2005; Kent 2010, Bronfort 2004, Rubinstein 2011a,b, Furlan 2005, Licciardone 2005).


Bronfort, G., et al (2010) Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report. Chiropractic and Osteopathy 18, 3

Bronfort G., et al (2004) Efficacy of spinal manipulation and mobilization for low back and neck pain: a systematic review and best evidence synthesis. Spine Journal; 4

Hayden, J., et al (2005) Systematic Review: Strategies for Using Exercise Therapy to Improve Outcomes in Chronic Low Back Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine 142 (9)

Kent, P., et al (2010) Does targeting manual therapy and/or exercise improve patient outcomes in nonspecific low back pain? A systematic review. BMC Medicine 8, 22

Rubinstein, M., et al (2011a) Spinal manipulative therapy for chronic low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 16, (2)

Rubinstein, M., et al (2011b) Spinal manipulative therapy for chronic low back pain: an update of a Cochrane Review. Spine 36, (13)

Furlan, D., et al (2005) Acupuncture and Dry-Needling for Low Back Pain: An updated Systematic Review within the framework of the Cochrane Collaboration. Spine 30, (8)

Licciardone, J., et al (2005) Osteopathic manipulative treatment for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 6, 43