McKenzie Method

What is the McKenzie Method?

The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is a detailed 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 used correctly, the achievable goals of the McKenzie method are to

  • accurately understand the patient's presentation and symptom behavior.
  • 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 it work?

Most musculoskeletal pain is “mechanical” in origin, which means it is a result of abnormal or unusual forces or mechanics occurring in the tissue. The MDT system is designed to identify the mechanical problem and develop a plan to correct or improve the mechanics, thus decreasing or eliminating the pain and functional problems.


The clinician will begin by taking a detailed history of your symptoms and how they behave. You will then be asked to perform certain movements and rest in certain postures and report how this influences your symptoms. This enables the clinician to identify specific pain patterns, which then assists in developing a treatment plan specific to your pattern of presentation.


Based on the information obtained from the assessment, the clinician will prescribe certain exercises and give advice on appropriate postures and ergonomics. If your problem has a more difficult mechanical presentation, the clinician can 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 per day is more likely to be effective in a shorter period of time than treatment administered by the clinician once or twice per week, thereby minimizing the number of visits to the clinic. The emphasis is on you, the patient, being actively involved. 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.