Therapy can root out back, neck pain


Have you ever experienced low back or neck pain?

If so, you are not alone because 70 percent of the adult population will experience low back or neck pain in their life and 80 percent of these people will have it happen more than once, researchers reported in 2006.

Low back and neck pain are amng the most common reasons for disability and the total cost implications for this are larger than any other disease.

In fact, low back and neck pain are as prevalent as the common cold and most can be treated with fairly conservative measures, according to a paper by Robin McKenzie and Stephen May, published in Spinal Publications New Zealand.

One way to do so is through what is called mechanical diagnosis and therapy. MDT focuses on reducing what is truly going on with your body instead of masking the symptoms.

The therapy helps to abolish symptoms through a simple exercise program that focuses specifically on what you need. It helps those with back, neck and joint problems, based on a conception McKenzie termed centralization.

Centralization is the concept of removing symptoms in the arms and legs (sciatica symptoms, for example) with the goal of eventually decreasing and abolishing symptoms at the source, usually the low back or neck.

It is not about masking symptoms but rather about treating the truly underlying problems that affect many of us daily.

The primary focus of this highly evidence-based practice is to give the patients the independence to treat themselves with a simple home exercise program.

The beauty of this self-management technique, with PT coaching, is the ability of the patient to treat themselves in the future if the symptoms arise again.

For example, if a 44-year-old male with chronic low back pain is referred to physical therapy the therapist would first evaluate and identify what helps to reduce the patients symptoms usually through repeated motion techniques.

Based on the evaluation, the therapist would be able to identify the most appropriate plan for treatment.

The patient would have to consistently do the exercises and follow up with the therapist about the response to treatment.

The therapist can then confirm that the exercise program was appropriate and may be modified to speed up recovery.

Soon the patient will become more independent with their exercise program and need fewer sessions as time goes on.

A patient who has been educated, coached and instructed on the appropriate treatment intervention will be much less likely to need continued care for their diagnosis in the future.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all back, neck and joint pain can be reduced or abolish by exercises alone and that is when an MDT therapist will use hands-on techniques to facilitate appropriate care.

You may find a local MDT therapist in your area by visiting

Brett Jenks is a therapist at Walla Walla General Hospital who specializes in spinal rehabilitation after back or neck injury or status post spine surgery.


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