The McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment

April 11th, 2024

At ProMotion Rehab and Sports Medicine, we believe in movement so much that we put it in our name. If you have ever experienced back pain, you know that it can stop you from moving. It can make simple daily tasks like doing normal chores, caring for our family, performing work or leisure activities difficult to impossible. Patients can be confused by their back pain as the way your pain behaves can vary greatly from 1 day to the next and even 1 hour to the next. This can make treating and eliminating your back pain yourself can be difficult and scary. The good news is that many times pain can be successfully treated using movement as one of the primary drivers to successfully eliminating it. A key approach to using movement to manage and eliminate back pain is the McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment approach. The Mckenzie MDT method echoes some of the key core values we have at ProMotion by being patient centered and movement based.

The McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment is a system that was created by Robin McKenzie that got its start by a chance encounter with a patient and a sharp inquisitive therapist. Robin McKenzie was treating “Mr. Smith” with severe back and sciatic pain that had being going on for a few weeks. Mr. Smith was told to lay on his stomach on a table that had inadvertently been left in an extended or reclined position. This was a position at the time medically was considered dangerous and something to be avoided by back pain patients. Upon entering the room Robin noticed the position and while initially he was taken aback thinking surely Mr. Smith would be worse after this mistake. Fortunately for us Robin asked Mr. Smith about his pain. Much to Robin McKenzie’s surprise Mr. Smith related this was the best he felt in weeks. Mr Smith noted that the pain come out of his leg moved to just his back and then completely resolved. Mr Smith very rapidly then saw complete elimination fo his pain which sparked Robin McKenzie's inquisitive mind to explore why this happended and if other patients he was treating would get better.

Robine McKenzie then took the next 10+ years of his life dedicated to collecting data on all of the patients he treated and tested. He is assessing a variety of different positions, movements in various directions and the effect that this had on the various symptoms his patients were having. Ultimately finding that if pain seemed to Centralize (move closer to the spine) then patients would get better and do so quickly. The culmination of this testing and data collection became the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy.

He later began traveling the world teaching his system and performing live patient treatments in which he was fixing patients live in front of other medical professionals. Fastforward 20+ years during which the McKenzie Institute was created to further train other clinicians, he wrote multiple books for both patients as well as medical professionals. In, 2004, US based orthopedic physical therapists were asked “Which physiotherapist of all time had the biggest influence on your thinking or performance in orthopedic physical therapy?” – Robin McKenzie was voted #1.

After reading all this you may be wondering what is the McKenzie Method. It is a reliable assessment process that utilizes detailed history, specialized testing of positions, postures and exercises with detailed assessment of symptoms changes to these various movements without the need for expensive diagnostic imaging. Upon evaluation completion, the patient's classification is identified, and direct treatment begins. The treatment principles of the McKenzie Method promote the body's potential to repair itself and do not involve the use of medication, heat, cold, ultrasound, needles, or surgery. McKenzie allows patients to learn the principles and empowers them to be in control of their own symptom management, which can reduce dependency on medical intervention. the McKenzie system focus on the patient their experience with movement to create a positive experience with movement.

If utilized correctly, the achievable goals of the McKenzie Method in a cost- and time-effective manner are to:

  • Accurately understand the patient's presentation and behaviour of symptoms.
  • Determine the most appropriate and effective treatment plan.
  • Eliminate symptoms and restore full function.
  • Empower the patient to self treat and prevent recurrences.
  • Help inform patients if other medical advice or testing is needed.

To take a short questionnaire to see if the McKenzie System is right for you please click the link below.

Contact us today if you would like to get started on the pathway to Move Better, Live Better and Play Better.