Robin McKenzie, a New Zealand born physiotherapist, pioneered and practiced his treatment techniques extensively prior to its widespread teaching in physiotherapy programmes and integration into day to day treatment of lower back and neck pain.  McKenzie therapy requires an identification of the mechanical cause of a patient’s lower back or neck pain.  Identification of a “directional preference” for a patients back disorder enables prescription of exercises matched to the patients’ individual back complaint.

According to McKenzie, approximately 90% of patients suffering with lower back pain exhibit a directional preference for back extensions.  This means that when asked to preform back extensions (arch back type exercises) patients will experience reduction in their symptoms of lower back pain or referred pain in the leg or buttock area.  Since 90% of lower back pain responds to back extensions this type of exercise is sometimes called McKenzie Extensions.

The McKenzie treatment regimen is deemed to be working if the most distal (furthest from the spine) of patient’s symptoms are reducing.  For example, if the patient complained of lower back pain with symptoms referring into the buttock and the back of the knee on the left side, McKenzie’s approach would monitor the effect of the prescribed exercises on the symptoms at the back of the knee.  If back extensions work and clear this symptom the pain is said to be “centralising” which is desirable.  A logical stepwise exercise progression follows whereby patients are asked to perform back extensions with varying increased loading of the lumbar spine.  This is known as “force progression”.  A chartered physiotherapist trained in McKenzie methods will be able to guide you through these force progressions in order to fully resolve your back complaint.

The McKenzie approach is also used to successfully treat neck pain.  With force progressions through a range of neck movements called retractions and extensions.

At Laurel Lodge Physiotherapy the McKenzie approach is often used to form part of a home exercise programme for our lower back and neck pain patients.  For more info get in touch!