What is Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy?

The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is a Method of assessment and treatment for spinal and limb pain developed by New Zealand Physiotherapist Robin McKenzie. It has been widely used all over the world for over 30 years. It is a movement, manual therapy and educational approach that aims to provide the patient with the tools to help themselves both in the short and long term. MDT is well researched and provides an evidence-based framework for assessment and treatment.


How does it work for me as a Patient?

Assessment – Treatment – Prevention

You will be asked a detailed set of questions about your symptoms and then you will be asked to perform a set of movements. How your symptoms respond to these movements provides the therapist with information that they can use to devise a treatment programme specifically for you.

Using the information from the assessment, the clinician prescribes specific exercises and postures that you will perform on a daily basis. These exercises may be supplemented by manual therapy provided by the practitioner. The aim here is to be as effective as possible in the least number of exercises sessions. Treatment that you can perform five or six times a day is surely going to be more effective in a shorter period of time than treatment administered by the therapist once or twice per week.

Back and neck pain is a problem that tends to recur over many years. During the assessment we aim to gain an understanding of how your symptoms behave. We can use this knowledge to adapt the exercises to reduce the number of future episodes and to provide you with the necessary tools to manage any future episodes at the earliest stage without needing to seek any professional help.


What are the benefits to the patient of MDT / the McKenzie method?


  1. Most patients who do respond favorably to MDT can successfully treat themselves – and minimize the number of visits to the clinic – when provided the necessary knowledge and tools to put you in control of your own treatment safely and effectively. 
  2. Patients who stick to the prescribed treatment protocols are less likely to have persistent problems
  3. Gain hands on knowledge on how to minimise the risk of recurrence and how to quickly manage yourself if symptoms do occur
  4. Achievable goals of the McKenzie Method are to:

    Reduce pain and deformity

    Maintain the reduction with education and posture advice

    Restore full function; and

    Prevent recurrences



Do all physiotherapists use this Method?

No. Many physiotherapists have not had training in the method, which seems surprising given its effectiveness and evidence base. Unfortunately, many who claim to “do McKenzie” have modified and diluted the Method to such an extent that it barely resembles the true Method. Without proper assessment and training, the results are often disappointing. Credentialled and Diplomaed therapists have been assessed to have a level of skill and knowledge to provide McKenzie method.


How do I know that the therapist I choose is adequately trained in the Method?

Therapists who have completed the full course programme and have successfully passed the Credentialing Examination will attain Credentialed status. This ensures a basic level of competence. Other therapists may have taken the Education programme further to Diploma level. Find a McKenzie accredited therapist in your country.


Does the McKenzie Method involve electrotherapy?



McKenzie MDT is only for back and neck pain?

No, it can also be very suitable for the solution of muscle, tendon and joint disorders in the peripheral joints, such as, shoulder, hip, etc. 


What should I expect at my initial appointment?

You will be thoroughly assessed by a competent physiotherapist

The nature of your problem will be explained to you

They will explain what they can do to help you

You will be advised what you can do to help yourself


Can you help if I have had my back/neck pain for years?

Quite possibly. Research has proven that this Method can effectively treat those patients whose pain has been present for months as well as years. A thorough assessment conducted over two to three sessions will allow the therapist to determine how much benefit you may gain from using the McKenzie Method.


How do I find out about becoming an accredited therapist and participating in the education courses?

For more information about our courses and becoming an accredited therapist, please visit our Education section 


Who is Robin McKenzie?

Robin McKenzie was a physiotherapist from New Zealand who devised this Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy over many years. He is internationally renowned and was the Founder and President of The McKenzie Institute International. The McKenzie Institute is an international research and educational organization that was formed to further the development of his rehabilitation philosophy. There are branches in over 30 countries around the world to meet the growing demand for knowledge by both clinicians and their patients. See more here.