Remembering Robin McKenzie

Robin-McKenzie-AM4Robin McKenzie, a Physiotherapist from New Zealand, has been a major influence in my career and I was saddened to learn of his death earlier this month. Robin McKenzie  pioneered a method of treatment of the lumbar and cervical spine which promotes self care through postural correction and specific exercises.
Robin based his practice on some simple tenets:

  1. Your back probably “went out’” because certain highly repetitive postures and/or movements that you do.
  2. If we identifying the problematic postures or movements that create your spinal problems, we can find the postures and movements which will reverse the problem, reducing and abolishing your back pain.
  3. You can learn to use these exercises and postural corrections to prevent future episodes of neck and back pain, and treat the pain should it recur.

Robin discovered an important principal in assessing back and neck pain called centralization.  If your problem is moving toward the spine, (from the foot to the calf, or from the thigh to the buttock, or the buttock to the spine) it is centralizing, and that’s a good sign, you are getting better.  If your pain or symptoms are moving away from the spine, it’s called peripheralization, and that is not a good sign.  Your problem is becoming worse.  This principal allows the practitioners and patients to determine if their treatment is working.

Robin had a good sense of humor.  Story has it, he was driving along a highway in his native New Zealand, and he saw someone lying on the ground performing one of his exercises.  Robin stops, gets out of his car and walks around the former patient.  After a minute, he finally says, “Just checking,” and gets back into his car and drives away.  He was also known to walk around airport lobbies checking the  sitting posture of each person as they wait for their flights.

As a PT student at NYU, Robin’s work became the focus of my senior project.  It was titled: “The Bio-Mechanics of Low Back Pain and The McKinzie Method of Treatment.”  Soon after I graduated PT school, I trained and was certified by the McKinzie Institute in the treatment of cervical and lumbar spines.  Later, I had the good fortune to study with Robin himself when he was teaching here in the states.  Robin was a brilliant diagnostician and practitioner.  The McKenzie method continues to evolve and I continue to study and practice it.    To learn more about McKenzie, you can read our blog post called Low Back Pain.

In my 35+ years of private practice, we have treated thousands of patients with back and neck pain.  We incorporate Robin McKenzie’s tools, Dr Rolf’s vision and Acupuncture in the treatment of acute and chronic cervical and low back problems.
Don’t hesitate to schedule on line call (973.509.8464 or  212.820.8719) for your next appointment.