What Are The McKenzie Exercises?

For problems with the hip or muscles in this area, McKenzie exercises can offer solutions. Do you know what they consist of?
What Are The McKenzie Exercises?

Last update: 31 October, 2020

The McKenzie method has been around for a considerable time and has helped improve the living conditions of countless people. This has been made possible through the McKenzie exercises, which are named after the person who discovered them.

At some point in your life, have you come across this type of exercise? If you visit a physical therapist regularly, you might know about them, and you might have even done them sometimes. If this isn’t the case, we invite you to learn a little more about this method and its exercises.

History of the McKenzie exercises

Also known as the McKenzie method, these exercises have their origin in 1956. This is thanks to a particular visit to the office of physical therapist Robin McKenzie. As history shows, he discovered this method courtesy of a patient named Smith, who assumed an unusual position for the time.

This occurred because the patient was unaware of the location of the stretcher, and Robin hadn’t come into the office yet. Upon entering about five minutes later, she found him face down, with his back extended. Despite being concerned, the patient expressed a sigh of relief.

Smith went to sessions for pain in his right legand with this position, the discomfort moved to the center of his back and disappeared. This allowed him to stand up straight fully. Based on this, Robin McKenzie began to analyze what happened and develop his famous method of physical therapy.

The McKenzie exercises

This method is based on a series of exercises carried out in three different positions: lying down, standing, and sitting. From there, it depends on the guidance of the physical therapist to perform them.

The exercises are divided like this: four extension exercises and two spinal flexion exercises. In the following lines, we’ll explain what they are.

Exercise 1

In the first position, you should be lying face down, fully extended on the table, your arms at the sides of your body and your head turned to one side. From there, you’ll take a series of controlled breaths for about five minutes.

A man going through physical therapy.

Exercise 2

You continue in the previous position, but you’ll rest your forearms on the table, aligning your elbows and shoulders. This will cause an extension in the spine. Here, you should repeat it for five minutes.

Exercise 3

In this third exercise, you’ll support yourself on the palms of your hands, while they’re aligned with your elbows and shoulders. This helps extend the spine.

As you perform this movement, you should relax your lower body– glutes, thighs, and legs. In addition, you should extend for two seconds, and repeat it ten times.

Exercise 4

This is one of the McKenzie exercises where you change your body position. Here, you should stand up, spread your legs shoulder-width apart, and hold your waist with both hands- fingers towards the back of your torso.

Once in this position, you extend your spine as far back as possible. Then, do ten repetitions of two seconds each.

Exercise 5

Return to the stretcher, but this time, lie on your back. Starting with exercise five, you’ll start the spine push-ups.

A woman stretching on the floor.

Lying on your back, you support the soles of your feet with your legs bent. Then, bring your knees as close to your chest as possible, while your hands go around them. The goal is to exert force so that the knees come closer and closer. You should do six repetitions for two seconds each.

Exercise 6

To finish the McKenzie exercises, you do this one sitting down. This posture begins the moment you sit on the edge of the chair, with your legs slightly apart and your hands in your lap.

Then, bend over to touch the floor with your hands, and put your head between your legs. Finally, return to the starting position. Repeat this six times.

McKenzie exercises aren’t for everyone

First of all, you should consult your doctor or physical therapist to learn more about the McKenzie exercises. These professionals should help guide you through the process.

Also, keep in mind that not all spinal pain needs this method. Therefore, the advice of a professional is essential.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rondón-Villamil, Y. A. (2014). Ejercicio terapéutico para desarrollar cambios posturales en estudiantes universitarios. Revista Investigación En Salud Universidad de Boyacá. https://doi.org/10.24267/23897325.120

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.