Many guidelines for the management of low back pain in primary care have been published during recent years, but guidelines for physiotherapy do not yet exist. Therefore, physiotherapy guidelines have been developed, reflecting the consequences of the current state of knowledge of effective and appropriate physiotherapy for low back pain. They aim to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of physiotherapeutic care for patients with low back pain. The guidelines were constructed on the basis of the phases of the physiotherapy process, using the Dutch method of developing physiotherapy guidelines. Scientific evidence of systematic reviews was used as the basis for the recommendations. A computerised literature search of Medline, Cinahl, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the Database of the Dutch National Institute of Allied Health Professions was conducted to identify relevant systematic reviews. If no evidence was available, consensus between experts was obtained. The guidelines were pilot tested among one hundred physiotherapists and reviewed by an external multidisciplinary panel. The guidelines recommend that the diagnostic process should focus on disability and participation problems resulting from back pain. The treatment should consist of an active approach, in which the patients learn to take control over their back pain. For patients with a normal course, where activities and participation gradually increase, reassurance, adequate information and advice to stay active are the most important recommendations. For patients with an abnormal course, where activities and participation do not increase, exercise therapy should also be provided, with a behavioural approach if necessary. These are the first national physiotherapy guidelines for low back pain. The recommendations are largely in line with other primary care guidelines for low back pain. Implementation will be a major challenge for the near future.