What Is The McKenzie Method For Back Pain?

Press-Up IllustrationInstead of continuing to suffer (maybe not so) silently with back pain, we need to keep searching for solutions.  More importantly, we need to learn about all of the options to determine which will work for each of us since there are no steadfast treatments.  But we need relief, right? So then, let’s answer what is the McKenzie Method for back pain?

Since I have been exposed to the method through the various physical therapy professionals I’ve seen over the years, I was surprised to discover that there are actually certified trainers across the United States and many other countries.  This is primarily because the McKenzie approach is highly focused on the individual.  You can search for providers in your area at The McKenzie Institute.  And since it’s generally practiced through a physical therapist or therapy clinic, check your insurance policy for possible coverage.

The McKenzie Method Explained

• Developed in the 1960’s by a New Zealand Physical Therapist, Robin McKenzie, the method focuses on centralizing the pain to the back in an effort to relief the often much more painful sensations in the extremities.  In other words, it is believed that people can tolerate pain much better in the back than in the leg or buttocks, for example.

• The most important component is not considered to be the exercises or ongoing preventative maintenance but rather it’s in the assessment itself.  Besides being given a physical examination, the patient is taken through a series of movements to determine which ones make the pain better, worse or centralized.

• The assessment leads to a McKenzie Syndrome Classification.  The three classifications, as follows, are essential to understanding the root cause of the pain as well as prescribing the exercises and preventative treatments:

Postural Syndrome – Just as it sounds, the pain is determined to be the result of prolonged habits of using improper posture.  The assessment, in this case, will include both performing poor and proper posture movements.  In most cases, the person will be relieved of pain, typically immediately, when practicing proper posture.

Dysfunction Syndrome – Here it is found that the individual has discomfort due to connective tissue issues (such as scarring or shortening) because they are unable to move through a full range of motion and pain is experienced at the end of their range.  To put that more simply, a person might be able to bend over only far enough to touch their knees not their toes and they would experience the most pain when in that position.

Derangement Syndrome – In this instance, which is the most common syndrome, the patient may suffer from sudden onset or gradual symptoms due to a wide variety of causes or even for no apparent reason.  Generally, the person will feel discomfort, limited mobility or weakness when moving certain ways or in certain positions.  The assessment will typically reveal the achievement of complete relief, less pain or centralization of pain when certain movements are performed.

• Since the assessment, patient education and individual exercise prescriptions are so important to the McKenzie Method, it is highly recommended to start the program with a certified practitioner, especially in the case of Dysfunction Syndrome.  Also the method is not appropriate for everyone and being assessed by a McKenzie trained physical therapist is the best bet to getting the right treatment.

• As for the McKenzie exercises, they are not necessarily unique, elaborate or difficult to perform in any way.  A few of examples would be a press-up, knees to chest and bending over.  Again the main benefit is derived from getting a tailored exercise prescription after the assessment.

If you are looking for home treatment options or more information, the developer Robin McKenzie, has authored several books based on the method including Treat Your Own Back 9th Ed (802-9) and 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life: How to Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain.  I will be reviewing both of these for this site in the near future.  Please take a moment to share a comment or thought today.

Let’s beat the pain,


4 Responses

  1. McKing
    McKing July 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm | | Reply

    How come my chiro doesn’t teach me such great info!! I need to get started on this right away! :D

  2. Ashley A
    Ashley A August 1, 2014 at 7:13 pm | | Reply

    Loved, loved, loved you’re post! This info is super helpful, easy to read, and motivating! My mom suffers from back pain due to her constant wearing of high heels. She could truly benefit from reading this kind of info. I’ll be sure to recommend your site to her. Great post!

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