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Why See A Physio That Uses The McKenzie Method?

Lisa Vernon recently completed the Lumbar Spine part of the McKenzie Method course of post-graduate education in Sydney.  As a result, she has written this blog with the question:  Why should you see a physiotherapist that uses The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT)?


Firstly, what is The McKenzie Method?

The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is a method of assessment and treatment for spine and limb pain.  It is used all over the world, and has a very strong following in Europe and USA.

The McKenzie Method is all about promoting the body’s potential to heal itself without medication, surgery or other passive ‘modalities’ such as heat, ice, ultrasound therapy or other electrotherapy.

The McKenzie Method was developed by NZ Physiotherapist Robin McKenzie.  However, he didn’t call it the McKenzie Method, he called it Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy.

He was disillusioned with the standard physiotherapy practices at the time of heat and electrotherapy.  Instead, he found that certain movements and postures can often get rid of pain and restore function.

He also found that he was able to predict the course of a patient’s improvement depending on how their pain and movement responded to his examination.

Robin McKenzie believed that most patients could learn how to treat themselves and how to manage any exacerbations in the future.

The principle of encouraging self-management when at all possible has become a key part of the McKenzie Method.

The physio educates the patient on exercises they can do themselves at work or home to reduce and then abolish the pain.


What is different about The McKenzie Method?

It isn’t a bunch of exercises that are given with the promise of help sometime in the future.  The exercises are targeted with an immediate and predictable result in mind, that is, reducing pain and/or increasing range of movement.

This approach is powerful for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, you have the ability improve quickly because you can apply your own therapy multiple times through the day.  This results in less appointments, saving both time and money.

Secondly, these same exercises then become the way to:

  • reduce or prevent the number of future episodes
  • shorten how long episodes last in the future
  • reduce the need to see a health care professional (either GP or physio)
  • reduce the time off work

You can confidently know how to respond if you have a recurrence without needing to see your physio or GP.   Knowing how to manage the problem yourself puts you in control.

Another great advantage is that McKenzie Method practitioners able to RAPIDLY determine whether physical treatment will be effective for you.   They will be able to say whether your problem is going to get better quickly, slowly or if it is unlikely to respond to treatment.

You don’t have to wait weeks or months to know. You can find out in as little as one session if things are going to get better with treatment.

This is in part because when YOU can perform the exercise five or six times a day.  This is much more effective than treatment administered by the clinician once or twice per week.


Some simple tips for anyone to prevent low back injuries

  • the fitter, more active and postural aware you are, the less likely you are to have back pain
  • keep on top of the problem by exercising regularly
  • when you start to increase your fitness levels, do it gradually.  Have an overall plan, don’t try to do it in one day!
  • posture is important in looking after your back – not just sitting posture, but standing posture too
  • frequently change activity and limit the time you remain in one position – your spine likes movement