The McKenzie Method

I’ve been lurking for a few months now, quietly listening to a lot of good advice. One approach I haven’t seen mentioned is the McKenzie Method. At least not under that name. Robin McKenzie is a New Zealander who wrote two books nearly 20 years ago which have been very influential here in NZ and, I believe, elsewhere too. His books are called Treat Your Own Back and Treat Your Own Neck (available from More in a minute, but first a quick intro. I’ve been working with computers for about 16 years, but only started having problems a few years after starting to use a mouse. To cut a long story short, I first had very sore shoulders, then upper arms, then burning painful wrists and increasing arm and hand weakness.

I found some of the exercises in the ‘Neck” book very helpful, with the only expense being the cost of the book, and with not a lot of time commitment either. The author does say that the approach is designed for people with straight forward mechanical problems, about 80% of those with neck pain. The general idea is that neck problems may cause pain right down the arms to the hands, and that resolving the neck issues fixes the entire thing. It has worked well for me. The exercises – only 7, and not all applying to every situation – are focused on neck extension and head retraction. No equipment needed. If the approach is suitable, the idea is that there is a gradual centralisation of pain. That is the hands and wrists start to feel better first until gradually the pain is localised at the base of the neck. The book also talks a lot about posture – what has likely caused the problem and how to correct in future. Here is a brief extract which may indicate to list members if this book (or approach) would help.

Where is the pain felt? The sites of pain caused by neck problems vary from one person to another. In a first attack pain is usually felt at or near the base of the neck, in the centre or just to one side. Usually the pain subsides within a few days. In subsequent attacks pain may reach across both shoulders, to the top of one shoulder or the shoulder blade, and later still to the outside or back of the upper arm as far as the elbow; or it may extend below the elbow to the wrist or hand and pins and needles or numbness may be felt in the fingers. I’m happy to send more info to the list from the book, though it does depend heavily on photos and diagrams.

Comment 1: Could you send the title of the book? I’d be interested in purchasing this book. I’m a networks engineer and have found that my right side has been getting steadily weaker. Having chased the GP for physio on the NHS (it’s a waste of time) I’m just gonna find me a private physio. I’ve had x-rays and it looks like I’ve got compressed vertebrae in my lower cervical spine so the neck book would be ideal for me I think. Cheers in Advance. Sorry for posting this request if this is against AUP not had time to read it fully.

Comment 2: I have a feeling it has been mentioned, but quite a while ago and I for one didn’t pick up on it at the time. It sounds very interesting. I’ve just had a look on and it’s available from there also, for only £8.99, so I think I’m going to have a look at it. Here are the details: Treat your own neck, Robin McKenzie, pbk 63pp (wow, not very long, is it!), Spinal Publications, ISBN 0473002094. Regular readers may like to know that: ” Customers who bought this book also bought: Chocolat; Joanne Harris “

Comment 3: I can endorse the exercises in the Treat Your Own Neck book (I haven’t tried the back ones). A colleague of mine also does the exercises and has managed so far to stop his hand/wrist symptoms and significantly reduce his neck problems. I’m not suggesting this is the answer for everyone but it’s certainly worth a try. I’m seeing on osteopath at the moment as I really hurt my back a couple of weeks ago, and she believes that neck problems are often associated with rsi symptoms.

Comment 4: What is the name and author for this book?

Comment 5: It is essential to read Robin Mckenzie’s books from cover to cover before trying anything that he suggests for treatment. If your signs and symptoms do not exactly match those in his described syndromes, then don’t do any of them. He is very specific about these syndromes, and the exercises have been designed in a way to improve those syndromes. Variations can be introduced after assessment by a Mckenzie practitioner who has experience and completed the relevant courses.

Comment 6: I am also interested in the books, having spinal problems in my neck which physio thinks is causing the multitude of other problems in my arms, hands etc. If you could give a little more info (in case the exercises are the same as the ones prescribed by my physio!) I’d be really greatful

Comment 7: Please send detail of the books, my physio thinks that my symptoms are coming from my neck and shoulders. If you could send a little more info on the books I’d be eternally grateful.

Comment 8: This interests me immensely, since it is akin to my own experiences. Many years of computer and keyboarding use caused usual stiffness, aches and pains (basically ignored very foolishly by yours truly). Current problem (numbness, tingling in right hand – aching and stiffness in fingers, across back of hand and wrist – combined with some aching in lower arm and upper inner arm, especially on coughing etc. All started after a heavy bout of spring cleaning (paintwork etc), followed by a few hours on computer – resulting in stiffness, pain in lower right shoulder over next couple of days. Ridiculous as it sounds, a sneeze whilst at my desk writing, caused excruciating pain travelling from right shoulder blade, up neck – then over a few days settling into a tenderness across upper shoulder, neck down into arm.

Due to the most intense typing in many years for 5 days at virtually 8 hours per day, the numbness and tingling started in hand and wrist. Thus my current flare up had begun – around 8 weeks ago now – slowly abating (I hope), but it is such a slow procedure not too sure about it yet. Considering acupuncture, not at all happy about surgery for anything concerning nerves etc – unless proved to be 110 per cent vital! Maybe this technique could benefit me as well as others, very interested.

Comment 9: It’s called “Treat your own Neck” by McKenzie – that should be enough for any bookseller.

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