The McKenzie Method

Also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, the McKenzie Method is a philosophy of active patient involvement and education for back, neck and extremity problems. The key distinction of the McKenzie Method is its initial assesment component. It is a safe and reliable means to accurately reach a diagnosis and only then make the appropriate treatment plan. Rarely are expensive tests required. Certified MDT clinicians have a valid indicator to know right away whether – and how – the method will work for each patient.

This information will provide you with a general overview on the McKenzie method. However, your greatest resource for learning more about the McKenzie method and its application would be a certified McKenzie provider. I would be happy to schedule time at your convienence to further discuss the McKenzie method and its benefits.

McKenzie At A Glance

Our unique method to assess and treat the spine and extremities is widely recommended as the first choice for common back, neck and extremity problems worldwide.

Most low back pain is “mechanical” in its origin, meaning that an applied force caused the pain. A basic philosophy of McKenzie’s theory is that the reverse force can probably abolish the pain and restore function.

McKenzie credits the patient’s ability to learn the principles and empowers them to be in control of their own symptom management, which can reduce dependency on medical intervention. The McKenzie Method promotes the body’s potential to heal itself without medication, heat, cold, ultrasound, needles, surgery or a force dependent on the practitioner. It also addresses a growing demand from patients and third party payers for professional rehabilitation services that develop the patient’s self treatment skills in a cost effective and time effective manner.

McKenzie Method Assessment and Treatment

Of the many frustrations patients face, the lack of standardized or uniform treatment approaches are high on the list. Especially for those patients with longer lasting symptoms of sub acute pain (lasting between six and twelve weeks) or longer than twelve weeks (chronic pain), treatments are very inconsistent. While the McKenzie method is successful with treating acute pain, it is also very helpful for those patients with sub acute and chronic pain. One of the benefits of the Mckenzie Method (or McKenzie Therapy) is that it is a standardized approach to both the assessment and treatment of pain.

It is a logical, cost effective process that evaluates the patient’s problem quickly. The assessment process is always effective because a McKenzie practitioner will identify both responders and non responders to therapy.

Since most spinal pain is to be believed to be mechanical in nature, most responders will show patterns of response to pain and function, and then be classified accordingly. This classification is unique to the McKenzie Method and provides a benefit to the patient and practitioner by eliminating the need for expensive and/or invasive procedures, because patients will be treated based on their individual spinal or extremity syndrome.

R. Chris Prentiss, PT, Cert. MDT

The McKenzie Method: Three Steps To Success

  • STEP 1: Assessment

    Unique to the McKenzie Method is a comprehensive and logical step-by-step process to evaluate the patient's problem quickly. This mechanical examination can "classify" most patient conditions by the level of pain or limitation that results from certain movements or positions. A McKenzie assessment can eliminate the need for expensive and/or invasive procedures.

    Research has shown the initial McKenzie assessment procedures to be as reliable as costly diagnostic imaging (i.e., x-rays, MRIs) to determine the source of the problem and quickly identify responders and non-responders.

  • STEP 2: Treatment

    McKenzie treatment prescribes a series of individualized exercises. The emphasis is on active patient involvement, which minimizes the number of visits to the clinic.

    Ultimately, most patients can successfully treat themselves when provided the necessary knowledge and tools. For patients with more difficult mechanical problems, a certified McKenzie clinician can provide advanced hands-on techniques until the patient can self administer.

  • STEP 3: Prevention

    By learning how to self-treat the current problem, patients gain hands-on knowledge on how to minimize the risk of recurrence and to rapidly deal with recurrence if it occurs. The likelihood of problems persisting can more likely be prevented through self-maintenance.

History of Success

The McKenzie Method has been internationally adopted because of the Institute’s history of patient success.
Below are a few samples of what our patients have to say about their experience with the McKenzie Method:

"I have suffered with back pain off and on for the past 40 years. I have been to doctors, MD, DO, and chiropractors. Their treatments helped in the earlier stages, but became less and less effective through the years. I was referred for Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic by my military doctor. Although I occasionally still have pain, my therapist has taught me exercises to relieve the pain and I am working toward a pain free back."


"After having suffered with pain 24 hours a day for nearly three years, how do I thank you? If only I had met you first, I would not have cost my insurance carrier more than $50,000 in medical expenses, and my family and I would have been spared much anguish. To be in control of one's pain and not have to rely on yet another doctor or pill or procedure is a wonderful thing."


On a personal note:

As one of the first Certified McKenzie practioners in New York, I have spent many years studying and improving my skills to best utilize this treatment approach with great success.
I would welcome the opportunity to share with you how the McKenzie Method and Chris Prentiss Physical Therapy can be an excellent resource in the treatment of your spine and extremity problems.


R. Chris Prentiss, PT, Cert. MDT
Certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy: McKenzie Institute
Physical Therapy School