Can Physiotherapists help with low back pain?

Last month Mairi wrote an article titled “Physiotherapists can help with that?” and it made me think of all the times my patients have been surprised to find out that we treat back pain. In fact, low back pain (and associated leg pain or sciatica) is the number one problem we see in our clinic.

At the Human Performance Centre we use the McKenzie approach. Trish and I are certified MDT (McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment) therapist and Trevor and Mairi are both completing their post graduate courses.The McKenzie system of management of spinal and musculoskeletal disorders was developed by the late New Zealand physiotherapist Robin McKenzie in the 1960’s. It is taught, researched and practiced by physiotherapists, chiropractors and physicians around the world. I always tell my patients that if you were assessed by a McKenzie Certified therapist in Canada, Asia or the US they would all follow the same process to determine your particular problem and make appropriate recommendations. The essence of the system is to teach the patients to treat their own mechanical musculoskeletal problems through education and a symptom specific exercise program. Treatment is based on a partnership in rehabilitation between patient and therapist.

Benefits of the McKenzie system:

• Prompt outcome assessment: It is usually possible to predict treatment benefits within 1-2 visits.

• Good accuracy of assessment data: Published peer review studies have demonstrated that assessment conclusions compare favourably with the findings from CT scans and MRI.

• The promotion of patient self reliance: Patients are informed about the cause of their pain and given specific information to manage their symptoms. This reduces their dependence upon care- providers over the long term and gives them the tools to take responsibility for their own health.

• Efficient use of medical services: Encouraging active patient participation reduces the number of treatment visits required. Typically, a short number of therapy sessions are required over a period of a few weeks.

• Recommendations are provided as to ongoing management: The initial assessment determines the patient’s appropriateness for this kind of intervention. Should mechanical therapy not be indicated, the assessment provides information on what further kinds of intervention or investigation may be appropriate.

If you are thinking “can a physiotherapist help with my back pain” the answer is a hard YES.

Contact our clinic and we will match you up with one of our awesome therapists.

For more information on the McKenzie approach, including research literature, click on

Earle is a physiotherapist at the Human Performance Centre. You can contact him by email or call 738-8299.

Earle Burrows PT