The McKenzie Method

The McKenzie method (also know as MDT or Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy) is a comprehensive method of rehabilitation primarily used in physical therapy of the low back and neck. The prescribed exercises are meant to directly diminish or even eliminate the patient’s symptoms. This technique was founded by New Zealand physical therapist Robin McKenzie in the late 1950s. His method encompasses evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for the spine and extremities. McKenzie believes that self treatment is the best way to achieve a lasting improvement of back and neck.

The McKenzie method exists of 3 steps: Evaluation, Treatment and Prevention. The evaluation is performed using repeated movements and sustained positions. The goal of the therapy is: reduce pain, centralization of symptoms (symptoms migrating into the middle line of the body) and the complete removal of pain. The prevention step consists of educating and encouraging the patient to exercise regularly and self-care. All exercises for the lumbar spine are repeated a number of times to end-range on spinal symptoms through extension. It is common to experience pain with these exercises. When you repeat them several times the pain should decrease. The method teaches that a single exercise of repeated movements or postures can realign the spine and remove associated pain.

The McKenzie method advice on posture:

You should consistently review and correct alignment when standing. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your toes turned out slightly. Your arms should be relaxed at waist level and slightly in front of your stomach. Your shoulders should be in neutral position (not rounding forward or excessively pulled back). Your back and pelvis should also be in neutral alignment (your butt should not be flat or protruding out). Your chin should be slightly back with your head centered. Check your alignment in a mirror until you can recognize (by feel) the correct posture. Try tucking and releasing your pelvis a few times to find the comfortable “neutral” position.

Extension (of both the low back and neck) is the core foundation of the McKenzie Method. See our McKenzie Method Exercises page for more information.