Rx3: Low Back Pain FAQs

What is low back pain?

Low back pain can occur in any part of the lower back: the middle, right side, and/or left side, and it’s sometimes possible for the pain to radiate down into the buttocks region or even further into the legs. Low back pain can result from multiple factors, including sudden or abnormal movement, overuse of the surrounding muscles, tight or weak muscles, poor posture, and improper form while moving or lifting objects. But most often the true cause of low back pain is unknown. Pain can come on suddenly or gradually, can last a short time or long time, can range from mild to severe, and typically gets worse when you sit or stand for long periods of time. Sometimes low back pain originates from a source not related to your back at all.

Is there a test for low back pain?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and will perform a physical exam. Depending on your age and your specific symptoms, your doctor may or may not order imaging tests (X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or bone scan) to help with the diagnosis.

How is low back pain treated?

The mainstay of low back pain treatment is through physical rehabilitation: performing exercises and stretches to increase the strength, endurance, and flexibility of the muscles of back, hip, and legs.

The Rx3 low back pain program organizes the exercises by phases based on how far along you are in the recovery process. Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, start with Phase 1. Advance to the next phase no sooner than 3 weeks and only when you feel you have mastered the exercises and can perform them with minimal effort and discomfort. If you have pain during or after the Phase 1 exercises, or if you have questions about when to go on to the next phase, check with your healthcare provider.

Each phase includes leg and core exercises, a cardio component, and stretches. Make sure you always do all the parts of each phase.

How long is this low back rehabilitation program?

Complete the program at least 3 days a week, increasing to 5 days a week as it becomes easier. Each exercise session should take about 20 minutes, plus the cardio component, and less than 15 minutes for stretching. You will need very little equipment for this program. Each phase takes at least 3 weeks, so the program will take you at least 9 weeks total, but the actual time you need to recover will depend on your specific injury condition.

How can I contact HPRC if I have questions?

HPRC has an Ask the Expert feature where you can submit your questions. Patients and healthcare professionals are both welcome. Our experts will reply with detailed information.