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What Is The McKenzie Method? Your New Secret Weapon For Low Back Pain

Developed in the 1960s by physical therapist Rob McKenzie, the McKenzie Method was created to help patients with low back pain. The protocol aims to elongate the spine and realign displaced vertebral discs.

If you’re experiencing low back pain, incorporating these exercises into your routine daily can be helpful, but remember to always consult with a specialist before starting any program!

Prone Press Ups

Start lying face down on the floor, hands underneath the shoulders. Slowly press your hands into the ground, lifting your chest up until you can fully extend your arms. If you’re familiar with yoga poses, this one should look like cobra pose or upward facing dog. You should be able to breathe regularly throughout this exercise. If you notice you’re holding your breath, utilize one of the modifications below. Continue with slow and controlled press-ups for 2-3 minutes.


Lying on Stomach

Can you really help with back pain just by lying face down? Seems too good to be true, right? Nope, just lie on your stomach, face down resting on one cheek, switching periodically. Breathe into your back, allowing the muscles to relax with each breath. Stay here for 2-3 minutes, repeating this several times per day.

Lying on Pillow, Prone on Elbows

Similar to the first exercise, this one is meant to slightly elevate the chest with a pillow underneath it, preparing you to ultimately work into a Prone Press Up (hips on the ground, arms pressing into the floor like a cobra). 

The next step would be to remove the pillow and instead utilize your elbows to prop you up. Important note about posture here: elbows should be directly under your shoulders, and shoulder blades should be pulled back to open the chest out in front of you. The head can be in a neutral position (not craning back, or dropping forward). 

For both of these positions, sitting in the posture for 2-3 minutes is plenty, repeating several times per day. 

Want to make this more challenging? Try a standing extension:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, placing your hands at the small of your back, fingers pointing down towards the ground as a support for your low back. Begin to bend backward, pressing your hands into your low back for support, holding for a few seconds then returning to standing. 

Standing Flexion

Think of the classic toe touch — stand with feet hip-width apart, and bend forward, keeping the knees straight (but not locked out to discomfort). Only bend as far as you are able without pain or straining. Stay here for a few seconds then return to standing. Complete 6 reps, twice per day. If you notice any pain or discomfort with this, utilize one of the modifications below.


Lying Flexion

Lying flat on your back, bend your knees to bring your feet flat on the floor. Slowly bring your knees into your chest, holding them for a few seconds with your hands before releasing them to the floor. Complete 6 reps, twice per day. 

Sitting Flexion

Start by sitting on the edge of a stable chair (one without wheels, and that won’t slide). Keeping your feet flat on the floor, bend forward and let your hands drop between your legs. Stay here for a few seconds, breathing into the position, then return to an upright position. Complete 6 reps, twice per day. 

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