What is the McKenzie Method?

The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is a reliable assessment process intended for all musculoskeletal problems, including pain in the back, neck and extremities (i.e., shoulder, knee, ankle etc.), as well as issues associated with sciatica, sacroiliac joint pain, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, muscle spasms and intermittent numbness in hands or feet.

If you are suffering from any such issues, then an MDT assessment may be right for you!

Developed by world-renowned expert physiotherapist Robin McKenzie in the 1950s, this well-researched, exercise-based approach of assessment, diagnosis and treatment uses a comprehensive and clinically reasoned evaluation of patients without the use of expensive diagnostic imaging (e.g. x-rays and MRIs).

The treatment principles of the McKenzie Method promote the body’s potential to repair itself and do not involve the use of medication, heat, cold, ultrasound, needles, or surgery. McKenzie allows patients to learn the principles and empowers them to be in control of their own symptom management, which can reduce dependency on medical intervention. If utilized correctly, the achievable goals of the McKenzie Method in a cost-and time-effective manner are to:

  • Accurately understand the patient’s presentation and behavior of symptoms.
  • Determine the most appropriate and effective treatment plan.
  • Eliminate symptoms and restore full function.
  • Empower the patient to self treat and prevent recurrences.
  • Help inform patients if other medical advice or testing is needed.

How does McKenzie Method work?

MDT works in three steps: assessment, treatment and prevention.

Most musculoskeletal pain is “mechanical” in origin, which means it is not due to a serious pathology like cancer or infection, but is a result of abnormal or unusual forces or mechanics occurring in the tissue. Further, it means that a position, movement or activity caused the pain to start. If a mechanical force caused the problem then it is logical that a mechanical force may be part of the solution. The MDT system is designed to identify the mechanical problem and develop a plan to correct or improve the mechanics and thus decrease or eliminate the pain and functional problems.

In the simplest and most common instance, this may mean that moving in one direction may provoke and worsen the pain, and moving in the opposite direction may eliminate the pain and restore function.  This is known as Directional Preference. Other patients may have pain just at the end of movement or with certain functional movements like throwing or stair climbing. The McKenzie assessment explores these different positions and movements, how the patient performs them, and the response to these movements.

At Astra Performance Health, our doctors will interpret this information to determine which of the movements and posture becomes the treatment as well as the necessary exercise dosage.

McKenzie Assessment

The McKenzie assessment process begins with a doctor taking a detailed history about your symptoms and how they behave. You will be asked how the problem began and how it interferes with your function.  You will then be asked to perform certain movements and rest in certain postures and tell u how this influences your symptoms.

A key component of the McKenzie system is the examination of repeated movements, which means that we may ask you to repeat certain movements even though that movement may hurt when you do it.  This enables us to identify specific pain patterns, which then helps us to develop a treatment plan specific to your pattern of presentation.


Based on the assessment process, a doctor will recommend the most appropriate treatment for you. We will prescribe specific exercises and advice regarding appropriate postures and ergonomics. If your problem has a more difficult mechanical presentation, we will provide advanced hands-on techniques to help manage the problem until you can self-manage.

The aim is to be as effective as possible in the least number of treatment sessions. Treatment that you can perform five or six times a day is more likely to be effective in a shorter period of time than treatment administered by us once or twice per week in our office. The emphasis is on you, the patient, being actively involved. This can minimize the number of visits to the clinic. Ultimately, most patients can successfully continue treating themselves when provided with the necessary knowledge and tools.


By learning how to self-treat your current problem, you gain hands-on knowledge to minimize the risk of recurrence and rapidly deal with symptoms if they recur putting you in control safely and effectively. The chances of problems persisting can more likely be prevented through self-maintenance.

Visit the McKenzie Method website to learn more about the McKenzie Method.

Is the McKenzie Method right for you?

Chiropractors at Astra Performance Health successfully use McKenzie Method to treat and empower patients for a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at (913) 345-4840. We are currently accepting new patients.