The McKenzie Method was developed in the 1960s by Robin McKenzie, a physical therapist in New Zealand. In his practice, he noted that extending the spine (gentle arching of 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 exercise 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.
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." Also, for some patients, such as those with lumbar spinal stenosis or facet joint osteoarthritis, extending the spine may actually increase their pain. It is important that if you are interested in using the McKenzie Method, you do so under the guidance of a rehabilitation specialist.