Physiotherapy: The McKenzie Method Difference

How does The McKenzie Method® work?

(taken from the McKenzie method Australia website –


The McKenzie method begins with the therapist taking a detailed history about your symptoms and how they behave. You will be asked to perform certain movements and rest in certain postures. The main difference to regular physiotherapy assessment is the use of repeated movements rather than a single repetition. How your symptoms and range of movement changes with these repeated movements provides the therapist with information that they can use to categorise your problem.


Using the information from the assessment, if appropriate the clinician will prescribe specific exercises and advice regarding postures to use and avoid. If your problem has a more difficult mechanical presentation, a qualified McKenzie therapist can provide advanced hands-on techniques until you can self-manage. The aim is to be as effective as possible in the least number of exercises sessions. Treatment that you can perform five or six times a day is more likely to be effective in a shorter period of time than treatment administered by the therapist once or twice per week. The emphasis is on you, the patient, being actively involved. This can minimise the number of visits to the clinic. Ultimately, most patients can successfully treat themselves when provided with the necessary knowledge and tools.


By learning how to self-treat the current problem, you gain hands-on knowledge on how to minimise the risk of recurrence and to rapidly deal with symptoms if they recur, putting you in control of your treatment safely and effectively. The likelihood of problems persisting can more likely be prevented through self-maintenance.

Is The McKenzie Method® appropriate for me?

The McKenzie Method® of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is a comprehensive, evidence-based system of assessment and management of musculoskeletal problems. McKenzie therapists are trained to assess and diagnose all areas of the musculoskeletal system.

This includes:

  • all parts of the 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

The systematic nature of the MDT assessment allows early identification of those that will respond to mechanical treatment, and those that will respond quickly or slowly to treatment.

Importantly, the assessment process also allows identification of conditions that will not respond to treatment, or those who have a problem that is not suitable for mechanical treatment and possibly require further investigation.

With The McKenzie Method®, the emphasis is on learning the skills to manage a problem independently, with the correct targeted exercise and advice to help a problem in the short term, but also to manage it or prevent it in the long term.

In some instances, ‘hands on’ treatment is also required to help a problem to the point where it can be successfully self-managed. The McKenzie Method® helps to identify which problems need this extra ‘hands on’ help.

So, if you are in need of a safe, evidence-based, cost-effective, and systematic assessment and management solutions of your problem, and you want to be involved in solving your problem, then The McKenzie Method® is for you.

Can you use the McKenzie Method for your neck or back pain?

  • Are there periods in the day when you have no pain? Even 10 minutes?
  • Is the pain confined to areas above the knee or above your elbow?
  • Have you had more than one episode of low back pain or neck pain or joint pain over the past months or years?
  • Do you feel worse during or right after prolonged bending or stooping; as in making beds, vacuuming, gardening, concreting, etc?
  • Do you feel worse when sitting for prolonged periods or on rising from the sitting position? i.e. after watching TV or working on the computer?
  • Do you associate your pain with any one particular activity but are generally pain free when not engaged in this activity?
  • Do you feel worse when inactive and better when on the move?
  • Do you feel better when lying face down? (You may feel worse for a minute before the pain subsides, in that case the answer to this question is yes).
  • Do you feel better when walking?

If you have answered yes to more than 4 questions, your chances of gaining benefit from The McKenzie Method® are very good.

If you answered yes to 3 or less questions you should contact a physiotherapist trained in The McKenzie Method® or a medical professional as you may need some guidance in managing your symptoms.

If you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Sciatic
  • Lumbago
  • Arthritic pain in hips or buttocks, shoulders or upper arms
  • Difficulty bending due to stiffness or pain
  • Pain that starts in the back or neck and seems to spread to the buttocks or shoulders
  • Intermittent pins and needles or numbness in the feet or hands
  • Aching pain into the elbows or knees that hasn’t been assisted by treatment to these areas

Then you may be assisted by a trained McKenzie Therapist.

To enhance your self management you may benefit from a McKenzie lumbar or cervical roll, or McKenzie’s self-help books, Treat Your Own Back or Treat Your Own Neck. These books have helped millions of people worldwide to treat, relieve and prevent their lower back pain and neck pain. International scientific studies have proven that the information and exercises described in these books get positive and lasting results. These products are available from BC Medical