McKenzie Method of Diagnosis and Treatment

Exercises for back pain, neck pain, and body pain doesn’t have to be boring or cookie cutter.  At Lake Effect Chiropractic, our rehabilitation approach favors high-quality movements and specific reps as valuable methods to restore proper function.  

One such method is McKenzie exercises, often abbreviated as MDT, which incorporates directed, functional movements as part of the rehabilitative protocol of many muscle and joint conditions.  This approach to muscle and joint rehabilitation is a non-operative exercise program that can be performed both within our office and from the comfort of your home. 

Our approach to exercise focuses on proper movement to alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and allow patients to return to full function more efficiently.

What are McKenzie Exercises?

The McKenzie method of exercises, also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), is widely used as a classification system for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of muscle and joint conditions. It was pioneered in the 1950s by a physical therapist named Robin McKenzie.  It took McKenzie over 30 years for his technique to become popular – but when it did, it took off!  McKenzie exercises became popular in the 1980s and are found in many chiropractic and physical therapy offices today. 

McKenzie exercises became popular for their conservative, safe, and above all, effective rehabilitation approach for numerous conditions including lower back, neck, and extremity pain.

With McKenzie exercises, patients are placed in certain poses or specific patterns that are held for several seconds up to several minutes.  These poses combine stretching and strengthening of soft tissues including ligaments, muscles, and nerves.  Because of its effectiveness and versatility, McKenzie exercises may be started in an office and transitioned to a home exercise program once mastery is obtained. 

Through posture correction and repeated exercises movements at end-range, patients not only feel improved health, less pain, and more strength – they also feel empowered to take control of their own health through healthy movement. 

At Lake Effect Chiropractic, we strive to change the function of how your body utilizes certain muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves in these powerful yet simple exercises.

Who can benefit from McKenzie exercises?

Many patients feel stronger, experience less pain, and benefit from improved joint health through our approach to McKenzie exercises at Lake Effect Chiropractic. 

We utilize McKenzie exercises alongside other comfortable movement approaches to improve aches, pains, muscles, and joint dysfunction!  The key to injury rehabilitation and preventing future injuries isn’t simply strengthening or stretching out the muscles; it’s identifying the key areas where dysfunction may be occurring. 

McKenzie exercises help evaluate the body’s functional stability, mobility, and balance. When a problem arises in the muscles, ligaments, joints, or nerves, it may extend pain and other symptoms elsewhere in the body.  This pattern is common, and normal.  However, it can make diagnosing a musculoskeletal condition more challenging. 

McKenzie exercises are not only a means to address mobility and stability problems; these exercises, based off the behavior of your spine and other body parts, can identify the true area of dysfunction where the problem arises.  This can include tight muscles, stiff joints, entrapped nerves, or irregular muscle activation.  

If one area of the body doesn’t move properly, it can affect the function of that entire body part!  One example is arm or wrist pain due to a neck or shoulder problem.  

Think of your body as a river and several beaver dams.  Although the blockage is upstream, the effects of slowed water are felt downstream.  To us, this can translate into pain, stiff muscles, weakness, diminished performance, and loss of muscle strength. Like finding the beaver dams along a river, McKenzie exercises help locate the areas of decreased movement along a region of movement. 

As a result, McKenzie’s approach to muscle rehab identifies when muscles must work harder when they aren’t meant to, causing extra strain or wear and tear.  Once the area of dysfunction is identified, the same exercises can help restore proper movement, re-engage muscle education, improve strength, and more.

What conditions can McKenzie exercises help with?

The short answer is – tons!

McKenzie exercises can help with overall movement quality in activities of daily living. 

This is especially useful in musculoskeletal pain resulting from:

Although some injuries occur from trauma, many other conditions develop over time due to repetition, poor form, poor posture, improper movement, or muscle weakness.  As a result, the patient needs a treatment approach that is gentle, specific, effective, and efficient. 


Many patients benefit from the musculoskeletal approaches in rehabilitation we utilize at Lake Effect Chiropractic.  Dysfunction can occur at any time in a person’s life.  What are some causes of dysfunction? 

They include:

  • Incorrect or improper form during learned activities, such as sports or exercise
  • Injuries such as a broken or fractured bone
  • Poor ergonomics, including improper footwear or abnormal posture
  • Ligamentous weakness that affects joint stability
  • Insufficient muscle strength

Can McKenzie exercises help me?

Oftentimes, the answer is an outstanding yes! 

McKenzie exercises are a versatile, non-invasive therapy that focuses on improving motion patterns and promoting healing.  Because they are focused on movement, many individuals ranging from young teenagers to older adults can safely perform these exercises.

Rehab exercises, such as McKenzie style exercises, enable our doctors to use a detailed movement assessment to determine the primary area of dysfunction. 

How your body feels and responds allows us to address any compensatory patterns in the muscles, joints, nerves, ligaments, or spine.  From here, our skilled doctors can determine what may be directly or indirectly causing the patient’s primary complaint of pain. McKenzie exercises are an excellent means of assessment and treatment for many musculoskeletal conditions. 

Our team focuses on providing the best chiropractic rehabilitation in the Bay Area to maximize patient outcomes.  Many times, the use of McKenzie exercises allows our patients to move better and be stronger than before they found Lake Effect Chiropractic.

To determine if and what type of McKenzie exercises are right for you, give our office a call and make an appointment with one of our skilled practitioners today!  

What Our Patients Are Saying!

"I have been suffering from a multitude of back and foot problems for years now. After seeing Dr. Ashley for just under two months I am able to walk and be more active without the same pain. She genuinely cares and will do and teach you to do whatever it takes to make improvements to give you a better quality of life. You are so appreciated!"

-Lisa: Bay City, MI


"They both are fantastic! They don't just adjust you, they help you figure out the problem and teach you how to make it better! I highly recommend them, they are wonderful and caring"

-Becky: Freeland MI


"Not just back crackers. They treat the problem, and help teach you how to take care of the problem yourself."

-Jeremy: Saginaw, MI