How can the McKenzie Method help with your pain?

By the time I finished my last semester of classes in physical therapy school, I still had no idea how to help clients with low back pain. Furthermore, because the world of physical therapy is so broad, PT education must touch many different topics. Therefore, it is impossible to go into depth on all of them. Fortunately, in my last clinical rotation (on the job training, working 1-on-1 with a licensed PT) I was introduced to the McKenzie Method or what we refer to as MDT. I learned from some of the top MDT clinicians during that time and I then graduated from PT school with a foundation for treating clients suffering from low back and neck pain.

Let me give you some background on the McKenzie method (also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, MDT) and why I pursued certification in it.

The McKenzie Method has been around for over 50 years. A therapist by the name of Robin McKenzie started this method after a coincidental finding for a patient with sciatica who had not been responding to other treatments. Clinicians worldwide have built upon this method and have adapted it ever since. This method is “mechanical” because it treats pain as a function of the normal and abnormal stressors placed on our bodies through our movements and activities.

MDT is a patient-centered, evidence-based assessment and treatment approach that follows 4 steps to get clients to feel like themselves again. While it was originally used for treating spinal conditions, the principles effectively treat the other joints as well.

Step 1: Assessment

The assessment begins with a conversation where I get a detailed history of how your pain behaves. From there, I will put you through an individualized movement exam to get to the root of your pain.

Step 2: Classification

What I find during the assessment leads to a classification in the MDT system. The classification guides me in treating and managing your pain and symptoms.

Step 3: Treatment

Here is where I get to teach you how to manage your pain. Based on your history and how you respond to the movement exam, you will usually be given 1-2 exercises to treat yourself for the next several days after your evaluation. You’ll find that you need to do your exercises or movements often every 2 hours. Essentially, the goal here is to teach you how to fix yourself. By doing so, we often get quick changes in your symptoms.

Step 4: Prevention

This step is arguably the most important. Physical therapists play a huge role in prevention of pain and dysfunction. Through the other 3 steps, you, the client, have learned how to self-assess and manage your pain. You have been given the education and resources to treat yourself if symptoms return down the road.

Find out if a McKenzie assessment can help you manage your pain.

About the author:

Dr. Chelsea Walter, Physical Therapist Cincinnati

Dr. Walter is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with an emphasis on treatment of spinal conditions. She graduated from Saint Louis University in 2014 with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy and completed undergraduate work at the same institution. From 2018 to 2019, she was a post-graduate resident with the McKenzie Institute. There she achieved certification in the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) and board certification in orthopaedics (OCS). Chelsea enjoys working with clients who are active in the gym or with recreational sports. She has led an active lifestyle from early on in life and enjoys hiking, travel, and spending time with family.