The McKenzie Method

The McKenzie Method for the treatment of back pain, neck pain and extremity joint problems

Luke Surkitt

 The McKenzie method - also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) – is a system of assessing and treating musculoskeletal problems commonly used by practitioners around the world. It was developed by New Zealand physiotherapist Robin McKenzie who found that specific postures and movements could help patients to reduce back and neck pain, improve movement and increase function. The McKenzie method can also be used for common problems of the extremities (your arms and legs).

 An important part of the McKenzie method is that it focuses on teaching patients how they can self manage their pain problem – giving control back to patients, reducing the need for ongoing treatment and helping to reduce the recurrence of pain. As the results of treatment can be rapid, the McKenzie method can be both time and cost-effective.

 Practitioners using the McKenzie method follow a systematic approach to determine if this form of management is suitable for you. This starts with taking a thorough history and assessment personalised to each patient. Patient response to specific positions and repeated movements can help to determine what type of condition is likely to be present, and the response may be rapid. The identification of centralisation– where symptoms move back towards the middle of the spine and are abolished through certain positions and movements – in particular is associated with a good prognosis for your pain.

With patients found to respond to the McKenzie method, management is individualised to each patient that might involve a combination of specific education and recommended postures and exercises. Through learning self-management, patients importantly can develop the skills to prevent the recurrence of their problem. Other recommendations can also be made for patients depending on the results of the assessment.

 So if you have any of the following pain problems then you might be able to be helped by the McKenzie method:

·       Back or neck pain that might also be spreading down the legs or arms

·       Sciatica

·       Stiffness in the lower back particularly after sitting or bending for prolonged periods

·       Difficulty bending or arching backwards

·       Arthritic pain in the hips, knees, shoulders and upper arms

·       Aching pains in the knees or elbows

 Our team at Advance Healthcare have also been involved in research projects that have found that management using McKenzie exercises can help patients to rapidly improve their low back pain in the short-term. This includes one of our physiotherapists (Luke Surkitt) who is currently completing his PhD on the treatment of low back pain using the principles of the McKenzie method.

 In summary the McKenzie method can be a useful starting point for your musculoskeletal condition. Through a thorough assessment it can be determined whether McKenzie management might be suitable for you and also help to reduce the need for expensive tests and further ongoing treatment, and assist with getting you back to doing the things you love doing!

 If you would like to find out if the McKenzie method might be helpful for you please contact one of our three credentialed McKenzie Physiotherapists at Advance Healthcare:

·       Daniel Di Mauro at Advance Healthcare St Albans

·       Jon Ford at Advance Healthcare Boronia and Dandenong

·       Luke Surkitt at Advance Healthcare Boronia and Dandenong

Luke Surkitt Square.jpeg

Luke commenced working as a physiotherapist for our group in 1997. Since then, he has developed experience in treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions with a particular interest in acute and persistent spinal pain.  Luke is currently completing a PhD on the treatment of low back pain using the McKenzie approach. He is also the author or co-author of several research articles on low back pain published in physiotherapy and medical journals.

Luke is a member of the multi-disciplinary Network Pain Management team at Advance Healthcare Boronia and Dandenong. He also works part-time at La Trobe University tutoring students in research skills in the Masters of Musculoskeletal and Sports Physiotherapy programs.