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Back Pain & The McKenzie Method

If you’ve had back or neck pain for more than two weeks, Valley Health physical therapist Michelle Young, PT, OCS, Cert MDT, has a message for you: Get a doctor’s referral to physical therapy. If you’ve been struggling on your own with pain for months or even years, do the same. Back and neck pain affects millions of people. But you don’t have to accept it as part of your everyday life. And ignoring it, hoping it will go away, is usually not an effective solution.

Research shows that there are specific exercises you can do for yourself that will reduce or abolish back and neck pain. The research is clear — the earlier you see a physical therapist for care, the less likely it is that you will need an MRI or other expensive tests, injections or surgery. It’s also important to realize that physical therapy has been shown to reduce the need for pain medications by 78%! Physical therapy not only shows you how to reduce pain — you’ll learn how to move, stand, sit and perform daily activities with modifications to minimize the risk of recurrent pain. Everyone with back pain can benefit from that knowledge!

Several physical therapists at Valley Health have received specialized training and practice an evidence-based program for spine pain called the McKenzie Method. The goal is to find a movement or position that reduces the pain, then to repeat that movement or position over and over again until the pain improves or goes away. The McKenzie Method has proven effective for many patients worldwide. It’s a very thorough evaluation that assesses patients’ pain response to specific movements. And research has shown that if the therapist can find a directional preference (i.e. a movement that reduces or eliminates the pain) there is a much greater likelihood of a good outcome that can be managed by the patient.

This method empowers patients to treat themselves and is, therefore, very cost effective. We have patients with large disc herniations who control their condition with physical therapy alone. Having the diagnosis of a disc bulge or herniation is not an automatic case for surgery. Consult a McKenzie therapist first, knowing that if he/she cannot find a directional preference within 3-5 visits, they will refer you on to another specialist for further diagnostics and testing.

- Michelle Young, PT, OCS, Cert MDT