Are You Suffering from Chronic Low Back Pain? Learn About a Unique and Effective Treatment Approach
If you’re reading this, you or someone you know is likely suffering from low back pain. And you’re
probably tired of your low back pain preventing you from sleeping, working, performing household
tasks, and doing the activities you enJ.O.Y.
You may be looking for effective treatment but want to avoid costly and potentially risky treatments like
injections or surgery. If so, read on to learn about Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and what
makes it unique and effective as an approach to low back pain.
What Is Mechanical Low Back Pain?
There are different causes for low back pain, but most low back pain is considered mechanical. So, what
does “mechanical low back pain” mean? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians:
"Low back pain is usually nonspecific or mechanical. Mechanical low back pain arises intrinsically from the
spine, intervertebral disks, or surrounding soft tissues."
Is Low Back Pain a Common Problem?
In a word, yes. According to statista.com, 54% of adults reported neck or back pain of five years or
longer, as of 2017. A study cited by cdc.gov reported that back pain was the most common pain
reported, with 25% of U.S. adults reporting back pain in the last 3 months.
What Is Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT)?
Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, also known as The McKenzie Method, was developed by New
Zealand physiotherapist Robin McKenzie, starting in 1956. It is an exercise-based approach to
examination, diagnosis, and treatment for mechanical pain of the spine and other joints. It places a
strong emphasis on providing low back pain sufferers with the tools and knowledge needed to manage
low back pain independently, but also incorporates manual therapy techniques when needed.
MDT is used by physical therapists, as well as chiropractors, physicians, and osteopaths, for the
treatment of mechanical pain of the spine and joints.
How Is Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) Different from Other Physical Therapy Approaches?
MDT seeks to classify your low back pain as mechanical or non-mechanical, then into sub-classifications
that help determine treatment and prognosis. If the pain is mechanical, then you are generally a good
candidate for MDT. This is done by gathering detailed information from you about the signs and
symptoms you are experiencing.
You are then taken through an exam that involves performing movements of the low back repeatedly.
By noting your range of movement and the behavior of your symptoms during the repeated
movements, the therapist gains additional information that allows your back problem to be further
classified, diagnosed, and treated.
Emphasis on the following concepts differentiates MDT from other approaches:
- Use of repeated movements to classify/determine treatment
- Exercises tailored to each individual’s directional preference
- Use of repeated movements to treat mechanical low back pain
- Consideration of centralization
- Emphasis on education and teaching the patient to independently manage the low back pain
Glossary of terms.
Repeated Movement: When a specific movement of the spine is repeated in order to gain information
about the appropriate treatment.
Directional Preference: When movement of the spine in one direction decreases the pain or centralizes
the pain, and often, movement in the the opposite direction increases the pain.
Centralization: When pain that has spread to the side of the back or into the leg is abolished or moves
closer to the midline of the low back
How Do These Concepts Help Treat Your Low Back Pain?
When directional preference and centralization are identified during an assessment, it allows the
therapist to customize your home exercise program. This allows your therapist to prescribe an exercise
that will work best for your low back pain, instead of a “one size fits all” approach. This gives you simple
but powerful tools to help manage and prevent your low back pain independently.
The use of repeated movements for the identification of directional preference is important because a
significant percentage of patients with mechanical low back pain are found to have a directional
preference. If the MDT method of assessing your low back pain is not used, then this directional
preference is often not identified and an effective way to treat your low back pain problem is missed. A
traditional physical therapy exercise program does not tailor a patient’s home exercise program to each
patient in this way, and the result is a less effective program for many patients.
Is Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy a Good Treatment for Your Low Back Pain?
If you are looking for an effective treatment for your mechanical low back pain so that you can get back
to the activities that you enJ.O.Y., find an MDT provider today.