What is the Mckenzie Method?

If you've followed our social media or blog, you've probably saw us write about the "McKenzie Method," "Mechanical Diagnosis and therapy," or "MDT." You've probably thought to yourself "What the heck is that?"

If you want to know what the McKenzie institute says, you can go here. In our own words, the McKenzie method is an approach to Low back, neck, and joint pain that stresses a thorough assessment to classify pain syndromes so that clinicians can educate patients how to manage and abolish their pain on their own.

So, that's it in a nutshell: Teaching patients what pain really is and how to get rid of it. But if you want to know more, read on to hear what the McKenzie method is and why we utilize it with every patient who has a problem with Low back pain, neck pain, or joint pains.

Why is it called Mckenzie? Well, it was started by a therapist in New Zealand named Robin Mckenzie. As the legend goes, he had a patient named "Mr. Smith" back in the 50's suffering from low back pain radiating into his leg, a common symptom known as sciatica. He was double booked, and asked "Mr. Smith" to go lie on his stomach on a table in his next open room. Unbeknownst to him, the table in that room was folded up to support someone sitting upright. When he walked in and saw Mr. lying on his stomach folded up into a backbend, he initially thought to himself that he would be in trouble as this was traditionally thought of as a bad position for your back.  To his surprise, Mr. Smith told McKenzie that after lying that way, he felt the best he had in weeks and his leg pain was gone completely. Robin used this experience to start experimenting with postions, repeated movements, and discovered most back problems can resolve rapidly by adopting a simple movement or posture regimen.

Now that's a fun story, but it doesn't explain ALL the benefits of the McKenzie Method.  So, let's go over some of the reasons why it's the first tool for solving back pain in our office.

  1. Research - MDT has decades of research behind it's principles.  It has been shown to be reliable between different clinicians.  This means if the same patient is examined by 10 different clinicians trained in MDT, they are likely to come to a consensus on what the problem is.  It is also predictive.  Research shows 95+% of all patients who display centralization of back pain - a phenomenon outlined by McKenzie, will get better with this therapy and will not need drugs or surgery.
  2. Healthcare value ($) - Healthcare value is conceptualized by outcomes divided by cost. Good outcomes with low cost = great healthcare value.  Poor outcomes with high cost = poor value.  Good outcomes with high cost are of moderate value. By utilizing a thorough clinical assessment and stressing self treatment, great outcomes found in the MDT research are paired with cost savings from reduced reliance on imaging studies and tests and decreased visit numbers. This means the Mckenzie method provides great healthcare value. We posted this article to our instagram page not too long ago that illustrated this fact. 
  3. Self Reliance - Perhaps the most important thing about the McKenzie method is it puts the patient in control. It shows them that back problems are typically easy to control with things you can do on your own time, without having to buy expensive equipment or constantly visiting a therapist. 


Dr. Todd Peterson, DC, Cert MDT. Dr. Todd Peteson Dr. Todd Peterson is a chiropractor and certified provider for Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy (MDT, aka the McKenzie Method). Dr. Peterson played football at the University of Nebraska, where he was a 4 year letter winner and Academic All American. He briefly played professional football in 2009 before returning to Chiropractic School in 2010. He earned his doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree from National University of Health Sciences in 2013, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors.

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