Which one of these is a McKenzie Spine Exercise?

Mckenzie Standing Extension-001 Mckenzie lateral shift-001McKenzie Knees to Chest-003

 Answer: All of them!

Many patients have asked “I was told to do McKenzie exercises for my lower back and leg pain.  What is a McKenzie exercise?”

Simple Answer: Which ever one reduces or eliminates your pain.

If your Physical Therapy prescription for a spinal problem recommends “Mckenzie Extension Exercises” or “Prone Press-ups” it should be based on a McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis examination performed by a McKenzie-certified Physical Therapist.  Without this examination, it is inappropriate to choose any of the three exercises above.  Recommending specific exercises without the Mckenzie diagnosis is comparable to a doctor diagnosing a fracture without an Xray!

In the McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis examination, a patient is taken through a sequence of movements that carefully load the spine and enable the physical therapist to determine the movements that improve or worsen the patient’s condition.

The key findings, along with a detailed patient background study, identify appropriate exercises to reduce pain, improve strength or improve function.  These findings and the McKenzie classification enable the physical therapist to develop a safe and individualized treatment plan.

Some patient’s respond to approaches that, at first, seem contradictory to the referring diagnosis.  I have successfully reduced pain in patients diagnosed with a “bulging disk” by crafting a knees-to-chest exercise that, at first seems counter-intuitive to many patients and practitioners.

Without the McKenzie approach, some practitioners would provide prone pressups for this condition, based solely on the MRI finding.


Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus, NJ provides orthopedic and sports physical therapy services for the greater Ridgewood, Paramus, and Bergen County region.  This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. The views expressed here are the author’s views and should be taken as suggestions. Always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before engaging in a physical therapy or rehabilitative program.