Non-specific mechanical low back pain - Cambridge Physiotherapy advice and exercises

There are many people who experience back pain which can’t be attributed to a particular structural injury or disease process even with a scan. The medical term for this type of back pain is ‘non-specific mechanical back pain’.

So what does this actually mean?


Your spine is wrapped in multiple layers of soft tissue (muscles, etendons, ligaments, fascia), so it’s not always possible to isolate a specific structure which is the cause of our pain. This doesn’t mean that your physio doesn’t know what is wrong with you and it can still be treated.


Your lower back pain comes on, after or during doing, certain movements or combinations of movements. It’s generally consistent, predicatable and may get worse during the day or during the course of a working week.

Low back pain

Pain which is localised to your lower back and doesn’t spread into one or both of your legs. There should be no changes in your bladder or bowel habits, loss of sensation around your groin, back passage or buttocks or feeling that your can’t control your legs in the usual way (if you experience any of these symptoms urgent medical advice is recommended).

What does it mean to be told you have ‘acute’ or ‘chronic’ non-specific low back pain?

Different types of pain can be classified according to the length of time you have been experiencing symptoms.

Acute pain means that you have had symptoms for up to a couple of weeks and it often triggers protective muscle spasm, so you might have difficulty moving properly during this phase as well as being in pain.

Following on from the acute phase, when the protective muscle spasm starts to settle you will move into the sub-actute phase of healing. You may still experience pain which restricts you from doing some of your usual activites but you might be starting to feel like you can move a bit more easily again.

If you have been in pain for 3 months or more, this would be called chronic or persistent pain. It’s associated with changes in the normal nervous system response, meaning that although some healing has been completed your nervous system continues to respond to information coming from your back as if there has been a recent injury.

What exercises are recommended for non-specific mechanical low back pain?

Clinical Pilates exercises are often recommended for back pain.

This programme will help relieve pain in the majority of back conditions and improve mobility. You’ll gradually be able to move more freely as you move through the acute phase into the sub acute phase, so remember to move within a comfortable range and don’t push into sharp or persistent pain:

Call us on 01223 914415 to book a private class or book online for group classes.