The McKenzie Method for Lower Back Pain

“About 3.7 million Australians (16% of the population) have back problems. It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer from lower back pain in some form at some point in their lives.”

What is the McKenzie Method?

The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is a movement-based therapy. Patients are assessed and placed into a subcategory allowing an appropriate management or treatment strategy to be implemented.

The McKenzie method:

  • Has a strong scientific basis
  • Allows quick, efficient identification and management of the problem
  • Empowers patients through self-treatment strategies
  • Prevents recurrence through education


The subcategories differentiate between the likely underlying reasons for experiencing pain and determine the appropriate treatment approach:

  • Postural syndrome: Pain which occurs due to prolonged overloading of healthy tissue, for example slouching. Pain usually resolves with a change in posture or position.
  • Derangement: Pain caused by a mechanical obstruction of the joint during movement.
  • Dysfunction : Pain caused by impaired tissues like scar tissue or adhesion’s.

Benefits of the McKenzie approach

“Imagine you had the power to control your pain and the ability to do your work and daily activities.”

The McKenzie approach uses repeated movements of the spine to establish a directional preference. Directional preference refers to a direction of movement that reduces pain and/or increases mobility in the spine.

This means that McKenzie therapists are able to quickly and efficiently triage you into one of the treatable subcategories or refer you to a specialist. Better yet this all happens without the need for any expensive CT and/or MRI scans.

The McKenzie method involves you to actively participate in treatment which gives you the power to take control of your pain outside the clinic.

Learn more: The Road to Recovery Starts Here

Is the McKenzie Method right for me?

The following self-assessment from the McKenzie Institute will give you an indication if the McKenzie Method will help relieve your back, neck, and extremity pain. Answer yes or no to the following questions:

  • Have you had more than one episode of low back or neck pain over the past few months or years?
  • Are there periods in the day when you have no pain? Even 10 minutes?

Aggravating activities:

  • Do you feel worse when inactive and better when on the move?
  • Do you associate your pain with certain activities or postures?
  • Do you feel worse during or immediately after prolonged bending or stooping, such as in making beds, vacuuming, gardening, concreting, etc?
McKenzie method for LBP
  • Do you feel worse when sitting for prolonged periods or on rising from the sitting position, such as after watching TV or working on the computer?
  • Do you feel worse when standing for long periods of time, such as waiting in line, attending a function?
McKenzie method for LBP

Easing activities:

  • Does your lower back feel better when lying face down? (Note: you may feel worse for a minute before the pain subsides but if it does then the answer to this question is still yes)
  • Does your lower back pain feel better when you are walking?

If most of these statements are ringing true for you, then there is a very good chance that the McKenzie Method will work for you!

About the Author: Kate graduated from University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Hons) in 2014. Since graduating she has become a credentialed McKenzie therapist. Her approach to treatment is to facilitate independence through education and restore function allowing her patients to participate in the things they love.

Contact us today or book an online appointment with Kate

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