What Are McKenzie Back Exercises?

Updated April 17, 2017

In the 1960s a New Zealand-born physical therapist, Robin McKenzie, noted that extending the spine of patients suffering from back pain resulted in significant pain relief. This led to the development of the McKenzie method of physiotherapy and exercise for back and neck pain. While Spine Health says people can do the McKenzie approach on their own, the method is better learnt with the assistance of a trained physical therapist.

McKenzie Exercise One

Lie flat on your front with your arms by your sides and your head turned to one side. Try to relax all the muscles in your back to remove any tension or distortion. Breath deeply and hold this position for five minutes.

McKenzie Exercise Two

An extension of exercise one, begin by lying flat on your front. Place your elbows under your shoulders and lean your weight on your forearms, creating an arch in your lower back. Breathe deeply and hold this position for five minutes, keeping the muscles in your lower back as relaxed as possible.

McKenzie Exercise Three

From exercise two, push yourself up further so your palms are on the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Extend your arms as far as the pain permits, keeping your legs, hips, pelvis and lower back relaxed. Maintain this position for several seconds before lowering until you are lying flat, then repeat. Each time you repeat this exercise, try and push up a little further, extending the back and arms as much as possible.

McKenzie Exercise Four

Stand upright with your feet slightly apart. Place your hands on the arch of your lower back, pointing your fingers backward and your thumbs forward. Bend backward at the waist, leaning your trunk as far as it will go and keeping your legs straight. Hold for several seconds; return to the start position and repeat. Each time you repeat this exercise, aim to lean back a little further.

McKenzie Exercise Five

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominals, bringing your knees up to your chest. Grip both knees with your hands and pull them toward your chest. Hold for several seconds, slowly lower your legs, then repeat. Each time you repeat this exercise, try and bring your knees a little closer to your chest. Keep your head flat on the ground and your knees bent throughout this exercise.

McKenzie Exercise Six

Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair. Keep your knees bent and place your feet wide apart and flat on the floor. Bend at the waist, leaning your trunk forward until you can touch the floor with your hands. Once you've touched the floor, raise your trunk slowly to the upright starting position. Each time you repeat this exercise, try to bend a little further, leaning your head closer to the ground.

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About the Author

Joe Faulkner-Edwards has been a freelancer for the BBC since 2008. He writes and researches innovative new factual entertainment formats and output-related material for BBC Online. Faulkner-Edwards is also a health and fitness expert. His health and lifestyle articles have been featured in "The Leeds Student" newspaper. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in broadcasting from the University of Leeds.