For patients with persistent back pain, McKenzie directional preference exercises can provide much-needed relief.
The McKenzie Method is a standardized approach to both assessing and treating low back pain and sciatica-related leg pain. With this conservative diagnostic and therapeutic technique, a patient-specific exercise plan can be developed to help alleviate discomfort.
McKenzie directional preference exercises are often successful in relieving both short-term and chronic back pain.
Identifying Directional Preferences with the McKenzie Method
The McKenzie Method serves to identify the relationship between pain and positions the patient usually assumes when sitting, standing and moving. When certain positions create more or less pain, the patient is said to have directional preferences of movement.
During the McKenzie assessment, the patient is taken through a series of specific movements designed to reveal any positions that increase or decrease symptoms. This mechanical diagnosis is integral to prescribing an effective exercise plan.
McKenzie Method Classifications
The McKenzie diagnostic approach places patients into three broad classifications — postural, dysfunction and derangement syndromes — each of which treats a different underlying cause of back pain and sciatica.
Postural syndrome patients have pain within the muscles, joint surfaces or tendons due to prolonged postures or positions. Often, patients feel symptoms when they remain in an end-range position, like a slouch, for an extended period of time. Repeated movements don’t increase discomfort.
Patients with a dysfunction classification have pain as a result of shortening, scarring or adherence in the connective tissues. Symptoms are increased and usually accompanied by movement loss at the end range of movement.
Derangement syndrome is the most common McKenzie assessment classification. These patients are sensitive to certain movements and display a clear preference for specific postures and motions.
McKenzie Directional Preference Exercises
To successfully treat back pain and sciatica, specific directional exercises based upon the patient’s presentation and the McKenzie Method assessment are prescribed. The goal is to alleviate back discomfort and centralize leg pain, or move it to the lower back, where it is easier to tolerate and treat.
For patients with a postural classification, exercises that concentrate on encouraging correct seating and standing postures are helpful. Directional exercises for dysfunction and derangement syndrome patients look similar, but have different purposes — the former are chosen to help remodel connective tissue, while the latter are designed to help reduce discomfort.
Many healthcare professionals are familiar with the McKenzie Method — but familiarity isn’t enough to create an effective, patient-centered exercise plan that relieves back pain and sciatica-related leg pain. Patients should visit a spine expert who has completed McKenzie Method mechanical diagnosis and therapy training for the best chance at a successful outcome with McKenzie directional preference exercises.