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McKenzie Method Physical Therapy

Physical pain may benefit from the McKenzie Method physical therapy. Vincent DiGiovanna, physical therapist at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services, discusses this treatment method.
McKenzie Method Physical Therapy
Featured Speaker:
Vincent DiGiovanna
Vincent DiGiovanna is a physical therapist at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services.

Bill Klaproth (Host):  So, let me ask you this, do you suffer from neck or back pain? What about your knees, hips, elbows and other joints? If you are saying to yourself now yes, hello, that’s why I’m listening to this. Well the McKenzie Method may help you. You’ve chosen the right podcast. So, what is the McKenzie Method of physical therapy? Well let’s find out and learn if it can help you with Vincent DiGiovanna, a Physical Therapist at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services.

So, Vincent, thank you for your time. So, what is the McKenzie Method, also referred to as Mechanical Diagnosis Therapy?

Vincent DiGiovanna (Guest):  So, the McKenzie Method or MDT is a reliable assessment process that’s intended for all musculoskeletal problems including back pain, neck pain and all the extremities. So, legs, arms, everything else as well as issues associated with sciatica, sacroiliac joint pain and the whole idea behind it is using repeated motions to try to identify mechanical origins of pain and to try to figure out the right way to approach those conditions to find the best and most appropriate outcome.

Host:  So, that sounds really interesting. So many of us have pain, neck pain, back pain as you know, knee pain, elbow pain. So, explain that a little bit more to us. You said identifying repetitive motions. Is that where you find out what causes the pain? Am I hearing that correctly or no?

Vincent:  You are hearing that correctly. So, most pain that we have that we see in physical therapy tends to be mechanical in nature. Meaning there has been certain forces or certain repetitive positions that have changed the structure, changed the joint. What we do through the method and it’s been very reliable as proven through the research, is identify those motions and identify those positions and postures and essentially find through repeated motions how that tissue has been changed and can we restore balance, reduce the pain, restore full function.

Host:  So, instead of just treating the symptoms; you’re drilling down to find the cause and then once you feel like you’ve found the cause, you prescribe an exercise plan to address it to ultimately correct it. Is that right?

Vincent:  Absolutely. Much in the same way where if you have low oil in you car, changing your tire won’t help it. If you have a chemical problem, a chemical will fix it. If you have a mechanical problem, a chemical won’t touch it and you need a mechanical change. And that’s where something like the McKenzie Method an MDT can come in and find that solution.

Host:  Is everyone an ideal candidate for this? Can the McKenzie Method work for everyone?

Vincent:  Everyone is appropriate for the assessment. Like most things, we can’t say until we do the assessment who is going to benefit, who might need further workup and who might not have a problem that’s coming from the musculoskeletal system that’s mechanical. But the vast majority of people that we can identify do come in very well. For most spinal patients, rapid changes occur in more than 50 to 70% of cases right on day one.

Host:  Holy cow. All right so how is this different from physical therapy which we all know and many of us listening to this podcast has gone through. How does the McKenzie Method differ from physical therapy?

Vincent:  The main two driving forces and the biggest difference is that the main responsibility through MDT places all the responsibility on the patient. They’re responsible for keeping up with things over 24, 48, 72 hours a period. And the main role of the therapist is identifying the right loading stretching and the right prescription of when to perform it and empowering the patient to perform that activity. Most exercises given by any other therapist might be a couple of generic stretches, a couple of things in all directions just to maintain flexibility, performed once or twice a day. The whole idea behind MDT is what’s the right amount of force necessary, repeated throughout the day to make a rapid and lasting changes.

Host:  Which I imagine is very appealing to everyone. So, let me see if I have this straight. Patients are taught the exercises or the principles of the treatment and then empowered to take control over their own symptoms by performing these exercises on their own at home. So, if they are doing this at home, I imagine they don’t have to buy expensive equipment. What will they need to perform these exercises?

Vincent:  For most people, it is as simple as either having a chair or somewhere easy to lay down depending on the condition we are working on. Most things that we recommend based upon what the body needs doesn’t need a lot of fancy expensive equipment. We can make do with anything available as long as the patient’s willing and able.

Host:  And you said patients see results quickly.

Vincent:  If we’ve classified is appropriately with something that will respond that we’ve identified in the evaluation; people can expect results in as little as two to four visits and we can have this thing figured out very quick. And we note each session when they come in, is it changing or is it not. We modify the prescription of exercise accordingly. So, it’s not a wait and see. We are going to know when we check everything and if we don’t have the right thing, we are going to move on to that next thing and act as a guide to give the more information to do the appropriate exercise that next visit.

Host:  I love this. I’ll be making an appointment and seeing you soon. So, this McKenzie Method, it doesn’t seem to be very widespread. Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services employs the only certified McKenzie Method therapists in our region of coastal South Carolina. So, this takes specialized training. Can you tell us about that?

Vincent:  So, the training itself consists of four about to be five extensive courses going over the methodology and the training and understand the concepts. And the best outcomes come from individuals who have been certified and credentialed through the McKenzie Institute of the United States. And those that achieve that high level are then certified by the Institute to perform appropriately and consistently the activities necessary for the outcomes we desire.

Host:  Well this just seems like a smart way to target the problem and then try to correct it. Vincent, is there any question that I haven’t asked you that I should? What else should we know about the McKenzie Method?

Vincent:  One of the biggest questions that kind of come up is is it something new, is it something different and everyone loves the new fad. But the interesting thing about the McKenzie Methodology it has been in existence since 1954. It’s actually one of the if not the most researched approaches especially in spinal care and the research keeps mounting year after year of how effective it is and how appropriate it is for most people.

Host:  So, why is this not as well known as say you know physical therapy. Everybody says yeah, I go to physical therapy. I got to go to PT. How come this is not as well-known I wonder?

Vincent:  In some ways it almost seems too simple that somebody with no equipment with just their mind can listen appropriately to the patient, take them through a couple of specific questions and motions and create a very specific quick program that’s as effective as it is. It doesn’t seem possible compared to how most people approach these conditions.

Host:  So, just to reiterate, you give them the strategy, the exercises, the plan; then it’s up to them to execute that plan ultimately to correct the problem and hopefully become pain-free.

Vincent:  100%. Our job is to guide them in that process. My job is not to fix anybody. My job is to give them the tools to fix themselves.

Host:  You are our guide. You are a sensei. You are our Yoda Vincent.

Vincent:  I do lack the hair.

Host:  All right this has been fantastic. Well thank you so much Vincent. This has really been interesting. And thank you so much for your time today.

Vincent:  Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Host:  That’s Vincent DiGiovanna and call 1-866-TIDELANDS to learn more or to schedule an appointment. You can also find more information at And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is Better Health Radio. I’m Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.