man suffering from neck and back pain

4 Non-Surgical Treatments for Neck and Lower Back Pain

Neck and lower back pain are two of the most common types of pain. Most people experience one or both of these pains at some point in their lives, which can be debilitating. The pain can range from a mild, dull, annoying ache to persistent, severe, disabling pain. When this happens, it can restrict your mobility and interfere with normal functioning and quality of life. Depending on the cause of your neck and lower back pain, treatments may include surgical and non-surgical methods like Cognitive Functional Therapy (CFT). But, surgery is not always necessary so this article explores the four non-surgical treatments.  

What causes neck and lower back pain?

There are many causes of neck and lower back pain, but it usually starts with tight muscles in your neck and lower back. It can also be a result of any of the following:
  • Injury, trauma, or fractures
  • Repetitive strain on the muscles
  • Degeneration of the vertebrae
  • Stress or sustained posture
  • Obesity
  • Joint problems
  • Abnormal growth such as tumour or bone spur
  • Protruding or herniated disk and pinched nerve
In some cases, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your neck and lower back pain. If left untreated, your condition can progress to acute or chronic, leading to long-term disability. The best way to treat your neck and lower back pain is by seeking professional help to get an accurate diagnosis and understand which non-surgical treatments can help to reduce flare-ups and manage the pain.  

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Neck and Lower Back Pain

There are many non-surgical treatments available for these pains. Some of them are:
  1. Spinal Manipulation
  2. Lifestyle Changes
  3. Weight Loss
  4. Cognitive Functional Therapy

1. Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation is a high velocity low amplitude thrust (HVLAT) technique within physiotherapy that can be used to help relieve pain and stiffness in the neck and lower back. There are three proposed theories to its therapeutic effect:
  • Biomechanical – Involves joint gapping via cavitation which can create a biomechanical separation of the facet joint within hypomobile joints.
  • Muscular reflexogenic – The manipulation creates a reflex reduction in pain, muscular relaxation and improvement in functional ability.
  • Neurophysiological – Involves altering pain perception via pain gate mechanism, descending pain inhibition, and release of certain neurotransmitters.
Each of these have the potential to improve joint gapping, improve range of motion and reduce the effects of pain.

2. Lifestyle Changes

When you experience neck and lower back pain, it’s usually a sign to listen to your body and change your lifestyle where necessary. For instance, sitting at your office desk in a sustained posture for long hours can lead to lower back pain. Make sure to take a break every once in a while to reduce stress or prevent tension from building up in the joints and muscles of your lower back. Not only will this help to relieve the pain, but it will also prevent any underlying condition from advancing.

3. Weight Loss

There are times when being overweight or obese can cause mechanical disruption to your joints and muscles, especially in areas above the knees and lower back. This has the potential to influence your body’s sensitivity to pain. Losing some weight can help alleviate or even relieve your pain sensitivity. So, discuss and work with your doctor to find ways to lose some of the weight. This may include exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.

4. Cognitive Functional Therapy (CFT)

Cognitive Functional Therapy is an approach within physiotherapy. It is a more modern and novel type of non-surgical treatment due to its patient-centred approach to pain management. CFT treats your neck and lower back pain as a whole instead of focusing the treatment on specific body parts. Put simply, it considers your physical, emotional, and sensory experience of the pain. During this therapy, your physiotherapist will encourage you to share the history of your condition that led to your neck and lower back pain. By doing so, they are trying to help you better understand your pain and function more positively. Over time, you can have greater pain control, less need for medication, and improved mental health. You can get this type of holistic treatment here at Benchmark Physio.  

When to seek professional treatment?

It is important to seek professional treatment if you are experiencing chronic neck or lower back pain. This is because it can lead to a more severe condition, such as degenerative disc disease or sciatica. You also need to seek professional treatment if the pain is accompanied by other symptoms like tingling, numbness, and weakness in the extremities. If your symptoms are not severe and don’t come with any other symptoms, you can opt for CFT, which aims at making sense of your pain. In fact, several studies suggest that CFT is comparably effective in pain management.  

Treat Your Neck and Lower Back Pain at Benchmark Physio

We are committed to delivering superior clinical outcomes to relieve your neck and lower back pain using evidence-based physiotherapy care. Learn more about the conditions we treat here.

Meet Our Physiotherapist

Ng Hong Kai, an experienced physiotherapist, has carefully reviewed the information on this page.

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Clinic Director and Chief Physiotherapist​​

  • Master of Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), Curtin University (Australia)
  • Master of Physiotherapy, University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sports Science), University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Member of Australian College of Physiotherapists and Australian Physiotherapy Association
  • Full registration with Allied Health Professions Council, Singapore, and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • GEMt Certified Dry Needling Practitioner

Hong Kai has been practising musculoskeletal physiotherapy for more than a decade. He is the first Singaporean to achieve dual credentials as both an APA Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and a tertiary trained Exercise Scientist.

Hong Kai's broad and extensive skillset allows him to create solutions that are simple, effective and tailored to a client’s musculoskeletal needs. His beliefs in continuing education and self improvement led him to complete his Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), where he had a chance to participate in formal research into knee osteoarthritis under the supervision of world renowned researcher and physiotherapist Prof Peter 0′ Sullivan. 

Hong Kai has experience treating a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, with a specific focus on addressing lower back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.