Self-Care of the Low Back and a Pioneering New Zealand Physiotherapist

Robin McKenzie has been an influential voice in the evolving field of spine care over the past 20 years or more.  He’s a physiotherapist from New Zealand who’s been on a mission – helping people take care of their own back problems. 

Though I’ve never been officially trained in the McKenzie system, I do incorporate some of his insights into my approach, and I want to share with you some of his basic principles.

Finding a favorable position or gentle movement

The McKenzie method is based on the principle that most people with low back pain can discover a rest position or gentle movement that gives them some relief. You can then build strategically on your favorable position or movement to gradually reintroduce your low back to a wider range of easy, pain-free motion, eventually eliminating your problem altogether.

You may have to try more than one rest position (or movement) before you find the solution that’s right for you. In Part 2 this article I’ll walk you through the steps you can take to find the right position for you. But before you try it for yourself, you need to understand a second principle of the McKenzie method – the process of pain centralization.

How do you know if you’re on the right track?

As you search for the favorable rest position or gentle movement that will give you relief, what are the cues to tell you that you’ve found the right solution?

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a position that lessens your pain. That’s a clear signal that you’ve found the right self-care approach for yourself.

But you can use a second clue, too. The pain can shift its location, retreating from the leg or buttock area and centralizing in the low back alone. This is a sign of improvement. So if you experience pain centralization, you can also have confidence you’re on the right track.

Are you an extender or a flexer? Your strategy to put these principles into practice.

Here’s a picture of one of the basic movements of the spine – backward bending, known in medical circles as spinal extension.

extension

 

Dr. McKenzie estimates that, for about 60% of low back pain sufferers, the position or movement that gives relief is a gentle version of spinal extension.

Another 30% of low back sufferers prefer a position of flexion.

spine flexion

 

The remaining 10% need to use a more complex combination of flexion or extension with side-bending or rotation in order to get relief.

Read Part 2 to discover how to put these strategies to work for you.

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Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Lumbar spondylolisthesis and spondylolisthesis exercises

If you get back pain with extension

Self-care of the low back, Part 2

 

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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.
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2 Responses to Self-Care of the Low Back and a Pioneering New Zealand Physiotherapist

  1. Thanks for this blog, I think its really helpful for many, and also may avoid unnecessary expense to Docs.This is very nice thread discussing on back pain.

  2. Gwen Gardner says:

    Hi Doc-
    Have been cruising the web reading up on others’ blogs regarding back pain, spinal mobility and extension because we have developed a new tool, for personal and professional use, for just this thing! Would love to have you visit our site and take a look. We are siblings and chiropractors working together to bring this new tool to others. Hope to hear from you! By the way, your blog is great…lots of information!
    Dr. Gwen

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