The McKenzie Method is a comprehensive physical therapy approach developed in the late 50s by New Zealand physical therapist Robin McKenzie. In 1981 he launched the concept of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), a system encompassing evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for the spine and extremities, which is now one of the most well researched assessments and interventions for spinal and extremity care.
One of the benefits of MDT is that it is a standardized approach to both the assessment and treatment of low back pain and/or leg pain (sciatica), as well as neck, thoracic, and extremity pain. MDT is not simply a set of exercises; it is a defined problem-solving procedure that serves to classify the problem so that it can be adequately treated.
MDT primarily uses self-treatment strategies and minimizes manual therapy. The MDT-trained therapist may support the patient with passive procedures if an individual self treatment program is not fully effective, but with the primary focus being the patient's performance of a specific exercise or movement aimed at reducing pain and discomfort, with the movement able to be performed by the patient over the entire 24 hours of the day, not just the hour spent in the clinic.
During the MDT physical examination, patients are taken through a series of movements that help determine the best treatment approach. The movements are intended to change symptoms, and identify a direction of movement that will decrease symptoms. For example, patients may be asked to perform single and/or repeated flexion or extension movements forward and backward with assessment of symptomatic change.
These movements may abolish symptoms, identify symptoms that occur only in certain positions, or cause symptoms to become either more central or peripheral. Once directional preference is identified, the patient is able to be appropriately classified and various MDT exercises are prescribed for therapy.