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Back pain can sometimes feel unbearable.

Most pain actually occurs in the lower back. It can be acute, such as from injury that overstretches the muscles, or it can be more chronic, from incorrect posture that makes the ligaments weaker over time. As we age, our backs in particular are more at risk for injury, because throughout our lives we’ve continually overstretched, bent and twisted them to find relief.

An often frightening element of back pain treatment is the expense. Because the pain can be so prevalent and enduring, we often fear mounting costs as we visit one doctor after another looking for lasting relief. Part of the goal of physical therapy at OrthoCarolina is to move you past an injury or condition better than you were before, and we constantly look for methods that enable you to manage conditions on your own at home.

I’m one of just a few therapists in the immediate Charlotte area who are certified in the McKenzie Method to treat back pain. Developed by physical therapist Robin McKenzie, this mechanical assessment of the spine is founded on the idea that the best approach to back and neck pain is self-treatment. I initially have a patient move through a series of movements and activities designed to test his or her response to pain. We try to find the cause and effect relationship between the patient’s normal, everyday positions while moving, sitting and standing, and how pain occurs from those movements.

Here are some reasons I use the McKenzie Method:

  • By using repeated movements, such as having the patient bend forward and flex the trunk repetitively, I can check to see if it reduces or abolishes pain. Likewise, we then check the opposite way or extension of the trunk.
  • In the clinic I use several manual (hands-on) techniques that the patient can take home to treat their own back or neck, such as flexion and extension.
  • We are able to do a posture correction (lordosis) assessment and teach the patient how to correct their own posture.
  • The patient’s sleeping position can be assessed to see if it is a contributing factor to pain.
  • The McKenzie Method is very accurate even when compared with an MRI; the success rate has been shown to be 92% with a therapist and patient. (Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy)
  • The McKenzie Method offers the patient independence at home in treating their own back or neck.

 After assessing a patient, we together design an at-home treatment plan to manage or alleviate the pain. Our goal is to send the patient home with an easy-to-perform series of self-treatment exercises that will help eliminate their neck, back and radicular pain.

William Chirico is a doctor of physical therapy and a certified McKenzie spine specialist in OrthoCarolina’s Monroe office.

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