The McKenzie Method

The McKenzie Method was developed over 40 years ago by Robin McKenzie, a physical therapist in New Zealand. In his research, he observed that extending the spine could provide significant pain relief to certain patients and allow them to return to their normal daily activities.

With the McKenzie approach, physical therapy and exercises are used to extend the spine can help "centralize" the patient's pain by moving it away from the extremities (leg or arm) to the back. Back pain is usually better tolerated than leg pain or arm pain, and the theory of the approach is that centralizing the pain allows the source of the pain to be treated rather than the symptoms.

A central tenet of the McKenzie Method is that self-healing and self-treatment are important for the patient's pain relief and rehabilitation.

The long-term goal of the McKenzie Method is to teach patients suffering from neck pain and/or back pain how to treat themselves and manage their own pain for life using exercise and other strategies. Other goals include:

  • Reduce pain quickly
  • Return to normal functioning in daily activities
  • Minimize the risk of recurring pain (avoid painful postures and movements)
  • Minimize the number of return visits to the spine specialist

The movement of pain from the extremities to the back will not occur with all patients. The McKenzie Method is designed to help patients where the pain does centralize but is not indicated for patients who do not experience this result.