Dealing With Extremity Pain? Consider Using The Mckenzie Method For Treatment

If you are struggling with arm or leg pain, you may want to visit a physical therapist for help. Physical therapy isn't a one-size-fits all regimen; you may be surprised to learn about the various routes you can take.

One modality you may want to consider is the McKenzie Method. This method of treatment was launched in the 1980s by physical therapist Robin McKenzie. Read on to see if this treatment might be helpful to your case.

What Is the Goal of the McKenzie Method?

While passive treatments, such ultrasound, hot-cold therapy, shots, and medications can relieve pain, the McKenzie Method focuses on movement and engaging the patient in his or her self-care. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises and stretches so that you can not only decrease your pain, but also regain your range of motion and return to everyday tasks.

What Is "Centralization" in the McKenzie Method?

When assessing patients, McKenzie noted a phenomenon that he termed "centralization," where pain would move from a distant location in the body—like in the arm—to a more central location (e.g., the back) depending on how a patient would move.

Centralization is a bit similar to the concept of "referred pain," where pain is perceived at a different location than the site of the painful stimulus. For example, if you sit for a long period of time, then you may suffer from back pain, which is the referred pain. The actual pain may be from tight hip flexors, which tilt the pelvis forward and strain the lower back muscles.

McKenzie's approach was to centralize or move pain from the extremities or other referred sites to the spine where it could be more easily treated. A lot of McKenzie's exercises focus on spinal flexibility and strengthening. By centralizing pain away from the arms/legs to the spine, he found that patients were able to handle their symptoms more easily and the root of the pain could be treated.

What Is the Basic Treatment Outline?

Like other physical therapy modalities, your therapist will take an assessment of your health before making a diagnosis and prescribing a treatment. Your physical therapist may classify your injury into one of the following categories:

  • Derangement syndromes: Pain caused by a misalignment in the vertebrae and obstruction in joints

  • Postural syndromes: Pain caused by continued stress of soft tissues (repetitive strain injuries)

  • Dysfunction syndromes: pain caused by the presence of scar tissue

Once you have a diagnosis, then your physical therapist can work with you in office and teach you how to safely do exercises at home so that you can heal and relieve your pain.

Contact a physical therapist to learn more about McKenzie Method physical therapy.