Text Size: A A A

The McKenzie System

Peer Reviewed

The McKenzie system is a method of evaluating and treating spinal disorders developed by New Zealand Physiotherapist Robin McKenzie. It is practiced extensively throughout the world on 5 continents and in 22 countries. Physical therapists comprise the majority of McKenzie practitioners but physicians and chiropractors practice the method also.

Training involves a sequence of four courses over a specific amount of time culminating in a certification examination. For those who pursue additional training, a diploma program (consisting of a 3 month residency) is offered. The McKenzie Institute is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the education and training of interested clinicians.

In the McKenzie system, clinicians perform a thorough history and evaluation. This includes observing the patient's response to repeated, end-range spinal motions. The patient is then given a "mechanical diagnosis." Most patients are diagnosed with either postural, dysfunction or derangement syndromes. Patients are treated by a combination of postural adjustments, specific exercises, and in some cases, spinal mobilization or manipulation.

The most common diagnosis is the derangement syndrome. It is thought to result from an alteration in the structure and mechanics of the intervertebral disc. In the derangement syndrome, positions and exercises that "centralize" the pain (move it closer to the spine) are emphasized. Those movements and positions that peripheralize the pain (move it away from the spine) are avoided.

The patient must take an active role in his or her own recovery. The emphasis is on self-treatment. The method is designed to achieve positive outcomes in as few treatments as possible. It is hoped that continuation of exercises and maintenance of proper postures will prevent recurrence. If pain does recur, patients will be able to treat themselves, without intervention.

The method has been studied extensively and is supported by research. For more information, contact a qualified professional. Many professionals use McKenzie techniques but patients are advised to seek treatment from either a certified or a diplomaed clinician. Credentialed practicioners will have the initials Cert. MDT, or Dip. MDT after their names.

Updated on: 04/22/14
Harry N. Herkowitz, MD
Numerous exercise regimens have been advocated for the treatment of spinal pain. Although the reliability of McKenzie's classification and evaluation system has been challenged in the literature, this method of spinal rehabilitation has provided significant relief of pain for innumerable patients. Like all spinal exercise programs, the precise prescription of exercise should be tailored to the patient's physical examination findings.
Cancel
Delete