Have You Heard About the McKenzie Method?

If you’ve been experiencing back pain and have been doing some independent internet research, you may have come across a description of the McKenzie Method of physical therapy.

The McKenzie Method was developed by New Zealand physical therapist Robin McKenzie nearly 60 years ago after he realized that some of his back pain patients experienced significant relief from exercises that extended the spine.

Since that time, many of the exercises in the program have become so well publicized that people have been able to use them at home to provide a certain level of relief. Though any type of physical therapy program is best administered by a licensed professional who is trained in the method, those who are simply looking for immediate relief may want to check out the most basic of these exercises to see whether they help.

The theory behind the McKenzie approach is that when the spine is extended, it centralizes pain by moving it away from the extremities. At our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey, we are firm believers in conservative approaches to chronic back pain, including physical therapy, massage, exercise and medication. It is only when these approaches fail to provide relief that we move on to exploration of more aggressive protocols such as minimally invasive spine surgery.

We encourage you to call our office to set up an appointment and come in for a comprehensive examination by our lumbar spine surgeon, but in the meantime, if you’d like to try some of the McKenzie Method movements, here are the basics that are easiest for people to use for self-treatment:

Step 1 – Prone Lying

This is the very first exercise that the McKenzie method uses for those in extreme pain such as that caused by sciatica or sudden offset back pain. It consists of simply laying down on the floor and relaxing while flat on your stomach. Breathe deeply and let the pain abate. After you are fully relaxed you can try the next step to see if you can do it without pain. If not, then you need to rest for a day or two before trying again.

Step 2 – Prone Prop

After lying flat on your stomach, try propping yourself up on your elbows to see if you can do so without pain. Breathe deeply to help you with this, and relax into the position as much as you can. Pay attention to where your pain is: the goal is to feel that it is moving away from your outer extremities, buttocks and thighs and into the centralized area of the spine. If you feel that you have done this, move on to the next step.

Step 3 – Press Up

Once you’re able to move to press ups you will begin to realize more relief. To do this, start in the prone prop position and then move your hands under your shoulders. Keeping your lower body relaxed, use your arms to press up. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the lower prone prop position. Repeat, keeping track of where your pain is.

The goal is for it to be moving up to the center of your spine. If your pain gets worse, try doing the exercise with your hips off center, sliding them in the opposite direction from where the pain is.

These exercises are just an introduction of the McKenzie Method, and may not be the best approach for you. The best way for you to determine the most appropriate treatment is to seek the help of our lumbar spine surgeon in New Jersey, who will create a treatment plan specifically for your needs.

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