The McKenzie Method

About the McKenzie Method


The McKenzie Method is a unique treatment approach to managing pain and mobility impairments.

The McKenzie Method empowers patients who suffer from acute or chronic pain by showing them how to effectively manage debilitating symptoms, reduce recurrence and minimize the number of return office visits.

Contact pt Health today to find out how this service can help you.

What is the McKenzie Method


The McKenzie Method, also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy [MDT], was developed in the 1960’s in New Zealand. Physical Therapist Robin Anthony McKenzie noted that by extending the spine, he could provide significant pain relief for his patients and allow them to return to their normal daily activities.

The goal of the McKenzie approach is to centralize the patient’s pain in the core back structures rather than treat localized pain.

The long-term goal of the McKenzie Method is to teach patients suffering from neck and/or back pain to manage their own discomfort by using exercise and other strategies.

What it Treats

This method is used to treat Postural, Dysfunctional and Derangement syndromes associated with peripheral joint discomforts, neck and lower back pain.

Postural syndromes are usually experienced as pain that is localized in the back or the neck and is aggravated by continued stress of tissues triggered by bad posture or position.

Dysfunction syndromes involve scar tissue on the spine that manifest as limited movement and/or intermittent back pain. The scar tissue may be the result of an accident or illness. When this tissue is stressed, pain occurs when the patient attempts to use their full range of motion.

Derangement syndromes such as intermittent back pain and limited movement can be caused by a change in position of the vertebrae enclosing a disc due to displacement and repositioning of fluid.

How it Works


The McKenzie Method classifies musculoskeletal problems into three categories: Postural, Dysfunctional and Derangement Syndromes. MDT treats the cause of pain and dysfunction. Regardless of classification, the treatment aims to centralize and eventually get rid of the pain.

Physical therapy and exercise are used to extend the spine and help centralize pain. When centralization is present, pain in an extremity will move sequentially back to the spine where it is generally better tolerated. When pain centralizes, this is seen as a positive prognostic sign. The detected directional preference guides further treatment. Exercise activity is prescribed based on individual assessment.

Common Questions


MDT is helpful for most individuals suffering from back, spine, muscle, bone, or joint disorders. The practitioner will assesses the pain and assign the symptoms to a category of spinal dysfunction. Usually, if the patient’s pain and spinal-related problems do not have a mechanical origin, the McKenzie Method may not be a useful treatment. In such cases, you may be referred you to another practitioner who relieves pain and symptoms due to spinal problems that are not mechanical in nature. The initial assessment procedure can determine how effective the treatment can be for your individual needs.

The McKenzie Method often cites the spine as the origin of the pain, which may be felt in other areas or structures of the body. The nature and location of your pain may change with repeated motion. The therapeutic approach requires a patient to move through a series of activities and test movements to gauge the patient’s pain response.

Understanding your body’s directional preferences and tolerance for pain is paramount to purposeful pain management. The MDT approach teaches you proactive pain management techniques that can have a lifelong impact. Utilizing the McKenzie Method can minimize your risk of recurring pain as well as teach you how to avoid painful postures and movements. Passive modalities such as heat, cold, ultrasound, medicine and needles are not used as part of treatment.

Absolutely! Pain can be treated even years after an illness or injury. In order to determine if the McKenzie Method will relieve a patient’s pain or improve their mobility or range of motion, the patient attempts several of the exercises designed to reduce the sensation of pain. If the pain moves towards the spine or is eliminated, then the patient may be an appropriate candidate for the McKenzie Method.

Yes. This one of a kind, trusted method is practiced worldwide and empowers people with the ability to control their pain. Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), is an alternative modality in which the practitioner assists a patient in learning exercises that alleviate pain originating from the spine. There are no medications or invasive procedures involved.

This specialized service is designed to treat any number of back, spine, muscle, bone, or joint disorders. However, patients who experience lumbar spinal stenosis or facet joint osteoarthritis may experience an increase in pain during McKenzie therapy. This modality is not recommended for such patients.

Most extended health care providers cover MDT treatments. However, all policies are different and we recommend you contact your provider to confirm the services that are available under your policy.

Coverage Options


pt Health therapy services are covered by most extended health insurance companies and in some cases Veterans Affairs and Medicare – such as OHIP (Ontario), Alberta Health Care and Medical Service Plan MSP (British Columbia). Not sure if you’re covered? No problem. We can help you find out (and usually within the hour). Just call us toll free at 1-866-749-7461.

At pt Health we believe your health should come first. We take care of the paperwork so you can focus on getting better, plus we offer direct insurance billing, saving you time and up front costs.

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