McKenzie Method

Do any of these sound like you?

The McKenzie Method is perfectly suited to anyone who wants to take control of their problem.

If so, you have been looking for the McKenzie Method!

What Problems Can The McKenzie Method Help?

When Robin McKenzie first discovered this approach, it was used on low back pain problems. 

Over the years, he was able to show that it was effective for assessment and treatment of all other areas of the body.

The McKenzie Method can be used to assess, categorise and treat:

Interested to find out how the McKenzie Method can help you?


Call us on (08) 7110 0848 or BOOK ONLINE

Let us help you get back to your best.

What Is The McKenzie Method?

Low back pain McKenzie Method - Adelaide West Physio + Pilates | Headache Clinic

The McKenzie Method (Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy) is a system of assessment, categorisation and treatment of musculoskeletal problems.

It is comprehensive, safe and well-researched. It is the most researched method used by physiotherapists worldwide.

This page shows the breadth of research that has been performed over the years on this system. 

The treatment strategy can involve either or both physio techniques and patient exercises.

The McKenzie Method philosophy is:

  1. patient education – learning about your condition and how you can help it improve
  2. patient empowerment – helping the patient to understand that they can have a huge role in assessment and treatment of their problem if they choose
  3. therapist reliance is not ideal – when a patient can perform a technique that is effective at reducing their pain, that is always preferred to a strategy that is reliant on a therapist.

Hands-on therapist techniques are sometimes needed to help a patient to get to a point of effective self-treatment.

The McKenzie method helps to identify which problems need this initial extra ‘hands on’ help.

Interestingly, even though this was Robin McKenzie’s philosophy for many decades, the literature is now finding the same to be true.

The McKenzie Method is also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) which is its original name.


The McKenzie Method assessment allows us to reliably identify:

  • who is likely to respond to treatment and, importantly, who is unlikely to respond
  • who is likely to improve quickly and who is likely to be slower
  • who is not suitable for physiotherapy treatment
  • who could require further investigation or medical opinion

With the McKenzie method, the emphasis is on learning the skills to manage a problem independently.

With the correct exercise and advice to help a problem in the short term, it is also possible to manage or prevent pain in the long term.

We stock a number of useful McKenzie products that help patient empowerment and independence.

These include the classic self-help books ‘Treat Your Own Back’ and ‘Treat Your Own Neck’ plus newer titles like ‘Treat Your Own Shoulder’, ‘Treat Your Own Knee’ and ‘Treat Your Own Hip’.

There are a range of genuine McKenzie Lumbar Rolls in a variety of shapes and densities to suit everyone, plus the popular McKenzie Cervical Roll that is a great addition to any pillow for someone with neck pain.

You can read more about the McKenzie Cervical Roll on our page about our recommendations for pillows and sleeping positions.

What does the McKenzie Method do?

For the patient:

  • It provides a clear prognosis for the problem so they know how long it will take to get better

  • It encourages the patient to be more involved in the assessent and the solution to the problem

  • It also allows the patient to do ‘treatment sessions’ themselves in between appointments, enabling a quicker recovery

For the therapist:

  • It provides a process of questioning and physical tests to find out the important information quickly, and a way of categorising the type of problem which guides a clear treatment strategy for the quickest improvement

  • It eliminates the problems associated with palpation and trying to diagnose a problem by spinal joint passive accessory movement (which is notoriously unreliable)

  • It encourages the patient and therapist to learn together about how the problem behaves and to work together to find the solution

Read more about our back pain service

If you have had other treatments that haven’t worked, you may be sceptical about seeing yet another practitioner with another set of promises.

Click to read this page about what can we offer you and how we go about it. 

Hopefully you’ll see that we are not your average physio service!

McKenzie method - flexion in lying

What sets the McKenzie Method apart?

The McKenzie Method is the most researched methodology in the world for treating musculoskeletal problems.

To see a library of the research that has been performed over the years, here is a reference list of the McKenzie Method. 

The McKenzie Method was biopsychosocial before it was a widely known concept. 

Nowadays, the evidence supports this so-called biopsychosocial approach as being best practice for all problems, not just persistent pain.

Although this might not seem groundbreaking these days, even as recently as the 1990s, this level of patient involvement was unheard of in a world of passive physio treatment.

Hands-on treatment are never the preference if patient-generated forces are effective. Therapist techniques are used if patient-generated forces aren’t enough to create improvement, and to allow a patient to become effective treating themselves.

This means that instead of ‘blaming’ particular structures, which is the default of musculoskeletal medicine (and appropriate in many circumstances), mostly the McKenzie method is categorising and diagnosing on the behaviour of the problem rather than making assumptions about the structures at fault.

Palpation is notoriously unreliable. Instead, the McKenzie Method uses the changes in pain and movement to help diagnosis. 

Importantly, this also allows the patient to be able to make that diagnosis rather than relying on a therapist’s opinion on how something feels.

Imaging is much less useful for diagnosis than we are lead to believe. 

This is because many changes can exist and be painfree, and many problems can be painful without changes on imaging. This poor correlation means that imaging has to be used judiciously and must match clinical findings.

You can read more about who needs imaging for low back pain here.

You never get sent home with a bunch of exercises in the hope that they will do the trick. Exercises that are given come directly from the assessment process, and allow the patient to continue treatment.

Life is too short to have your time wasted with stuff that doesn’t work.

Are you fed up with your pain? 

Do you want to take a more active role in getting better?

Get a FREE PHYSIO PHONE CONSULT to find out if the McKenzie Method can help!

Call us on (08) 7100 9959 or BOOK ONLINE


Common Misconceptions About The McKenzie Method

Myth #1 - The McKenzie Method is just one exercise.

Often people associate McKenzie with extension in lying (also called back arches, or sometimes McKenzie extensions).

It is actually a whole lot more than that! Apart from being an assessment and categorisation system first and foremost, the McKenzie Method treatment options include a variety of different directions and movements.

It just depends on what the patient responds to.

Myth #2 - The McKenzie Method is only for the low back (lumbar spine).

The McKenzie Method is often associated with only low back problems, but is equally effective for neck and upper back problems, and arm and leg musculoskeletal problems too.

It is perfectly suited to the person who wants to learn what they can about their condition, find out how to treat themselves effectively and take back control of their pain.

Myth #3 - The McKenzie Method is a 'hands off' approach.

There are many situations where hands on techniques are required. Sometimes it might be because someone requires extra help to achieve enough force to be effective to reduce their pain. It might be to help localise a segment. 

However, as soon as someone is able to effectively treat the problem with their own forces, that is the preferred option.

There are many more myths too!

Physiotherapy hands on lumbar spine treatment for low back pain

What is a mCkenzie therapist?

The most basic level of training is completing the Part A course on the Lumbar Spine, and the Part B course which deals with the Cervical and Thoracic Spine. 

Parts C and D deal with advanced skills and understanding of these areas, and introduces McKenzie Method treatment of the upper and lower limbs.

After completing these courses totalling 112 hours, the physio may sit the Credentialling Examination, a full day written and practical examination in order to gain the title Credentialed McKenzie Therapist. This is an internationally recognised qualification that demonstrates a level of competency with the McKenzie Method.

Russell is one of only two Credentialed McKenzie Therapists in Adelaide shown on the McKenzie Institute Australia Therapist Locator

He was invited to become a member of the McKenzie Institute of Australia committee and served on the committee between 2012 and 2017.

Frequently-asked questions

Here are the most frequently-asked questions, but there are hundreds more. If you have a specific question, ring us on 8356 1000 and organise a time to have a chat with a physio. 

Let us help you get the correct information for YOU.

McKenzie therapists are trained to assess and diagnose all areas of the musculoskeletal system.

This includes:

• spine including the neck and back
• structures like bone, joint, ligament, tendon or muscle
• areas like the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee
• symptoms like pain, pins and needles and numbness

If you are interested in being involved in managing your problem, the McKenzie method is ideal for you.

Research has proven that this Method can effectively treat those patients whose pain has been present for months as well as years.

A thorough assessment conducted over two to three sessions will allow the therapist to determine how much benefit you may gain from using the McKenzie Method.

No. Many Australian physiotherapists have not had training in the method, which seems surprising given its effectiveness and the amount of evidence that supports it.

It is particularly widely used in the USA and Europe.

Unfortunately, many who claim to “do McKenzie” have modified and diluted the Method to such an extent that it barely resembles the true Method.

Without following the correct assessment and treatment process, the results are often disappointing.

Russell has successfully passed the Credentialling Exam in Sydney, meaning that he has been assessed to have a level of skill and knowledge to provide the true McKenzie method.

All of our physios have completed at least Part A and B of the McKenzie Method training by McKenzie Institute Australia.

Robin McKenzie was a physiotherapist from New Zealand who devised this method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy from observation and treating patients over many years.

He was an internationally renowned physiotherapist and was the Founder and President of The McKenzie Institute International.

The McKenzie Institute International is an international research and educational organisation that was formed to further the development of his philosophy.

There are branches in over 30 countries around the world to meet the growing demand for knowledge by both clinicians and their patients.

The McKenzie Institute of Australia can be found at


There are many scenarios where hands-on, manual therapy is required when using the McKenzie Method.

It is used in situations where there needs to be more force provided than the patient can create themselves.

It can be used to help provide confirmation of a directional preference.

There are situations in acute pain where a hands-on approach is the only way of settling pain.

As soon as it is practical, we will look to strategies that don’t require hands-on treatment to allow the patient to start to be independent and less reliant on a health care practitioner.

How do we help if the 'usual' treatments don't help?

If you have had other treatments that haven’t worked, I imagine you’ll be sceptical about seeing yet another practitioner.

We have a step-by-step plan of how we help people with back pain which hasn’t resolved, which you can read by clicking the button below.