Low Back Pain Relief

McKenzie Extension - Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Low Back Pain Relief

Back pain can stop you in your tracks, cause pain and numbness in your legs (sciatica) and generally ruin your day (and night). Have you ever had a back injury? If you have, you are not alone. 80% of people have a lower back (lumbar) injury at some point in their life. The good news: Most lower back pain responds well to treatment and is often fully resolved within a month. An experienced Physical Therapist (PT) will help a patient heal themselves. PT for low back pain involves education, exercise and some behavioral modifications. Once your PT understands how you injured your back and what you are experiencing, they can set you on the path to recovery.

Lumbar Anatomy

The human spine is so vital and it’s structure is complex. The two main functions of the spine are to support upright posture and to protect the spinal cord. Muscles and ligaments support the spine and allow it to safely move in all planes. Discs between each spinal level absorb shock and provide a smooth surface for movement between levels. The spinal cord runs through a vertical canal in the spine. Nerve roots branch off the spinal cord to a network of nerves throughout the body. There is a right and left nerve root at each spinal level. Nerves transmit messages to and from the arms and legs in order to sense the environment and organize movement.

low back pain, lifting

Causes of Back Pain

This is a complex system, but when it’s intact, we’re pain-free and we function normally. Back pain can be caused by damage to any of the above – muscle, ligament, vertebrae, nerve, or disc. When someone has back pain, usually more than one structure is affected. A disc injury can cause muscle spasm and that can lead to inflammation or pressure on a nerve.

The result is severe back pain and possibly sciatica – pain and numbness into the patient’s leg. If you’re in pain, you’ll probably minimize your activity and move less. This eventually leads to a cycle of pain that gets worse due to decreased activity. This cycle of pain can lead to malaise, frustration, and even depression.

Physical Therapy Assessment

At the onset of care, a PT will do a thorough assessment to understand your condition and develop a plan of care. In the telehealth environment, the McKenzie Method is one of the most effective ways to offer pain relief to patients with a back injury or sciatica. The technique is a “biopsychosocial system of musculoskeletal care emphasizing patient empowerment and self-treatment.” This approach is a very effective way for Telehealth PTs to treat low back pain and sciatica.

Regardless of the technique, a PT will gather vital information from each patient, including a standard questionnaire to  determine their level of pain and disability. They need to understand your situation before they can effectively treat your back pain. This also establishes a therapeutic alliance between you and your PT, creating a safe environment to teach, learn, observe, treat, and heal. Next, they will observe your posture, movement and mobility restrictions through a series of repeated movements. The remainder of the exam will be guided by the PTs observations and the information you provide.

Physical Therapy Treatment

Your physical therapist will work with you to unravel that cycle of pain. By relieving inflammation and irritation, pain decreases. Once you have less pain, you’ll be able to move more freely. Then the PT can concentrate on exercises for you to stabilize your spine. As you get stronger, the PT will increase the intensity and functionality of movements until you can return to all your normal activities. All along, it’s important for you to understand that you’re not broken. Your body will heal if you follow the guidance of your PT and give it the chance.

If you are experiencing back or leg pain, the most effective intervention is to address it in the early stages. Conservative treatment by a physical therapist will often help relieve these symptoms in 2 weeks or less. A PT will also teach you how to manage a chronic condition and prevent future injury.

Back Pain Prevention

If you don’t have back pain, here are a few tips to keep it that way:



  • Utilize safe postures during work and recreational activities
    • An ergonomic assessment by a PT can help with that
    • Exercise with a certified personal trainer



Spine Health for Life

The complex structure and vital function of the spine and back are key to our overall health. A low back injury can severely affect your overall health. Prevention and early treatment will help you avoid a setback that can overtake your life. If you have a back injury, professional care by a PT can get you back to pain-free activities and a healthy life.


If you’re experiencing low back or leg pain, take advantage of a Free Consult with a Licensed PT to start feeling relief.


Daniel Seidler, PT, MS

Daniel has had the pleasure of being a Physical Therapist since graduating from Columbia University in 1996. He's the former owner of WSPT in the Bronx, NY. Throughout his career, Daniel has thrived as a healthcare innovator, entrepreneur, and executive. Since 2018, Telehealth PT has been his passion and his mission. Daniel provides educational programming to PT students, Physical Therapists and Physician Assistants on the basics and nuances of TelePT. He also continues to treat patients via Telehealth. Daniel is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Telemedicine Association, he is an Advisory Board Member of the Mercy College Physical Therapy program and a member of the Pace University Lubin Design Thinking Certificate Program. He loves spending time with his family, running in Prospect Park and doing the NY Times Sunday Crossword.